Although deaths from COVID-19 and new cases of the virus continue to rise in Kern, the county is meeting a new set of benchmarks created by the state to monitor counties' rates of disease transmission and preparedness as communities forge ahead with reopening and resume somewhat normal activity levels.

The new monitoring program was announced Friday and provides a window for the public to see how their county is performing, as well as an early warning of possible outbreaks and spikes that may warrant local shutdowns or other interventions. The data is updated daily and is available online

"The reality is this virus is spreading, and we're not going to be able to stop it," said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. "What we're concerned with is ... how do we control and prepare for and monitor that."

If counties fail to meet the benchmarks, there are consequences including state intervention to impose stay-at-home orders or scale back reopenings.

The monitoring program looks at various data in three areas to identify if a county is experiencing elevated virus transmission, if COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising and if hospitals are approaching capacity.
The state has two metrics for measuring virus transmission: when a county has more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents in a 14-day period or more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in a seven-day period and a positivity rate above 8 percent. (The positivity rate is the total number of positive tests divided by total tests, multiplied by 100.)
Kern is seeing around 85 cases per 100,000 residents, according to The Californian's calculations using available county data, but the state reports Kern hasn't surpassed an 8 percent positivity rate as of Thursday and is therefore deemed not to have elevated virus transmission. The exact positivity rate was not provided by the state and numbers to calculate the positivity rate weren't available.
Hospitalization trends are also an indicator of the prevalence of the virus. Counties that have a 10 percent increase in confirmed hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the past three days compared to the previous three days are deemed to have an increasing rate.
Kern remained below that level as of Tuesday, the state reported, though exact figures were not provided.
"If more people are being hospitalized for COVID-19, it is likely that disease transmission is increasing, although increases in hospitalization rates are likely to lag by approximately two weeks,” according to a document explaining the metrics from the California Department of Public Health.
A county's preparedness is being monitored by the percentage of ICU beds and ventilators that remain available for use by new patients. If either falls below 20 percent of total inventory of ICU beds or ventilators in a county, a county is considered to have limited capacity to care for patients. The state reported on Tuesday that Kern has 37 percent of its ICU beds available and 75 percent of its ventilator supply available. 
If a county exceeds a threshold set by the state, the state health department has said it'll follow the flagged data for three days before the county is placed on the watch list. 

Nine counties have already been placed on a special watch list for not meeting the benchmarks, including Fresno and Tulare counties. The state is working with those counties through what it calls "targeted engagement" to identify drivers of virus transmission and ways the counties can respond. 

"If a county is not able to address a localized outbreak it should consider reinstitution sector limitations or more general Stay-at-Home provisions," according to information from the state health department’s website.

If the county still fails to make sufficient progress, the state's public health officer may intervene and take action. That hasn't happened so far in any county.

Kern County Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine said he's confident that if businesses and the public follow recommendations, the county can minimize spread of the virus and keep working toward full reopening safely.

"If businesses carefully follow the industry-specific guidance documents, then the opportunity for disease transmission remains very low," Constantine said. "I’m optimistic these safety measures will make our county even safer than prior to reopening."

Recommended for you

(6) comments

Masked 2020

Humm.... Noun 1. social gathering - a gathering for the purpose of promoting fellowship.... I must be using the King James Version of Cliff Notes


Humm...Noun 1. Thug - a violent person or criminal.


Thank you Thug Protesters for helping to set back our economy. Your protest are far from peaceful when you knowingly spread disease.


There are some things worth dying for, like social injustice. Haircuts and church socials, no. Protests frighten you? They should.

Thug is not acceptable language in Amarican society. It is a dog whisper for the n-word. Times are changing.


Protests should frighten no one. Violence should frighten everyone because it begets more violence. A lot of people think religious freedom is worth dying for and to ascribe it to a social gathering is demeaning dog-whisper. There are plenty of descriptive words for the anarchists and trying to beatify them won't sanitize their actions.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Dweeb, "Thug" is unacceptable, but all of the colorful metaphors (look it up) you use to describe POTUS and any non-leftist are?


Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.