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.
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."