Kern County has surpassed its previous record for most coronavirus cases recorded in a single day.
According to the Kern County Public Health Department, 1,807 COVID-19 cases were reported Jan. 3, above the previous high of 1,466 from Dec. 9, 2020. The number may still increase, as there may be tests from Jan. 3 that have not yet been reported.
The Health Department attributed gatherings and travel from the holidays, along with the prevalence of the omicron variant in Kern County, for the increase.
“Omicron has been reported to be highly transmissible and CDC expects that anyone with omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms,” Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson wrote in an email to The Californian.
The rise in cases has been so rapid that some local health care providers are running out of resources. Clinica Sierra Vista has been forced to limit COVID testing to only its patients after an overwhelming number of people sought the tests.
At one point, the drive-thru line at Clinica's south Bakersfield location ran up to 60 cars long.
"The patients were just showing up and refusing to leave, and we couldn’t keep up," said Dr. Olga Meave, Clinica's chief medical officer. "We couldn’t take more people because we didn’t have doctors to call them back with results, nurses to give them recommendations over the phone."
Despite omicron symptoms being more mild than previous variants, she said a lot of pressure was being put on the health care system.
"It’s still clogging outpatient settings, ERs and hospitals," she continued. "So we really need to take a step back and be more careful in what we are doing, where we are going and how we are protecting ourselves and others."
She encouraged vaccination and boosters as effective means of slowing down the spread of the virus.
Hospitalizations remain below the peaks of all three previous surges, although they have been rising since Dec. 29. As of Jan. 9, 199 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 29 were in intensive care units.
The county previously experienced a hospitalization peak of 453 on Jan. 11, 2020, with the third surge peaking at 336 on Sept. 14.
Unlike previous surges, ICU capacity has remained relatively level despite the increase in overall hospitalizations.
But Kern Public Health expects cases to continue to increase over the next few weeks due to the highly transmissible nature of the omicron variant.
Two state strike teams are working in Kern County to help with hospital capacity, and Corson said the county is working on bringing in three more to assist with offloading patients from ambulances and emergency room care.
The teams are expected to remain in the county until the end of February.
“We encourage Kern County residents to do all they can to improve their overall health, including regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep,” Corson said. “Improving your overall health not only lowers your risk for the development of chronic diseases, but will lower your risk of developing severe illness with COVID-19.”
She also encouraged residents to get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask indoors, stay home when sick, wash hands often, get tested before traveling and gather outside when possible or increase ventilation indoors.