For the first time, Kern County Public Health Services revealed the demographics of those who have died from coronavirus complications.
The data shows the deaths largely followed statewide trends, with the majority of those who died being 65 or older. Still, the health department pointed out during a Thursday press conference that several seemingly healthy people have died, and officials urged caution for all Kern County residents.
“The CDC has said all along that there are certain things that put us at high risk of severe illness and death and our data falls pretty much, in general, in line with that,” said Public Health Lead Epidemiologist Kim Hernandez. “But we want to remind people that even if you don’t have any of those high risk factors in your life that you know about that COVID can still be very serious.”
Of the 371 people who have died locally from COVID-19, 247 have been 65 or older, and 80 have been between the ages of 50 to 64. Those between 18 to 49 years old have died in 44 instances.
Diabetes, high blood pressure and hypertension have emerged as the underlying health conditions that are most often present in Kern residents who have died from the virus. The health department dashboard shows 132 individuals with deadly COVID-19 infections have suffered from hypertension and 119 have had diabetes.
The health department says 12 people, or 3 percent of the total, had no noted underlying health conditions, yet still fell victim to the virus.
“This statistic demonstrates the need to keep ourselves as healthy as possible to significantly decrease the likelihood of severe illness and/or death should you contract COVID-19,” said Public Health Services Assistant Director Brynn Carrigan.
While 52 percent of total COVID-19 cases have been reported in women, the majority of the deaths have been men, at 59 percent.
Of the deaths in which race and ethnicity have been recorded, Hispanics have seen the highest percentage of fatal cases, followed by whites. Nearly 61 percent of deaths have occurred in Hispanic individuals, followed by whites (28 percent), Blacks (7 percent), Asians (3 percent) and the remainder being classified as “other.”
Although race and ethnicity is not known for around 23 percent of Kern County’s COVID-19 cases, of the cases in which race is known, about 55 percent have occurred in Hispanics, 12 percent in whites and 3 percent in Blacks.
According to the website census.gov, Hispanics and Latinos make up 54.6 percent of Kern County's population, followed by whites (32.8 percent), Blacks (6.3 percent) and Asians (5.4 percent).
As a proportion to its population, 40 individuals have died in Kern County per 100,000 residents as of last week, the 10th highest in the state.
As Kern County’s coronavirus numbers have fallen in the last few weeks, officials have hoped to meet state benchmarks needed to expand indoor activity at schools, businesses and places of worship.
On Thursday, Kern officials revealed the county had one more benchmark to track, the health equity metric, which has been instituted by the state to ensure certain areas within counties aren't ignored.
In the health equity metric, a county’s census tracts are divided among socioeconomic factors, and the lowest 25 percent must have a testing positivity rate of 8 percent or below. On Thursday, Kern County was meeting all three of the state benchmarks included in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
As of Thursday, Kern County’s case rate was 5.8 new cases per 100,000 residents when it must be below 7. Because Kern County’s testing rate falls below the state average, the state increased Kern’s case rate to 6.5 new cases per 100,000 residents, still below the benchmark.
The testing positivity rate in Kern is 5.7 percent, when it must be below 8 percent.
Kern’s health equity metric revealed that the positivity rate among the county’s lowest quarter of census tracts was 6.4 percent, which also met the state benchmark.
If the numbers continue to stay below the state’s guidelines through next Tuesday, a two-week countdown will begin to move Kern County from the most restrictive of four tiers into the second most restrictive, color-coded as red by the state.
On Friday, Bakersfield College will be hosting a free COVID-19 test site from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the corner of Haley Street and University Avenue.