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Kern County remains in orange tier in latest COVID-19 update

Kern County will remain in the orange tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, making it more unlikely that the county will loosen restrictions before the proposed statewide reopening on June 15.

In its weekly update, the California Department of Public Health showed Kern experienced yet another decline in both the coronavirus case rate and testing positivity rate over the week of April 18 to April 24, the most recent time period available.

The decline, however, did not bring the county below the yellow tier threshold, keeping Kern in the second least restrictive tier in the state government’s guidelines.

The county only missed one of three metrics required to enter the yellow tier. Both the testing positivity rate and the health equity metric (the testing positivity rate in poor areas) were below the yellow tier requirement of 2 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.

The ratio of new daily coronavirus cases was 2.8 per 100,000 residents in the latest update, down from 3.4 per 100,000 the week before. It must be below 2 per 100,000 to qualify for the yellow tier.

The county’s testing positivity rate was 1.3 percent, a decrease from 1.4 percent the week earlier.

The health equity metric actually increased to 1.8 percent from 1.5 percent last week.

A county must meet a lower tier’s requirements for at least two weeks before dropping, meaning the earliest Kern County could enter the yellow tier is the week beginning May 17.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a general statewide reopening slated for June 15 that will commence as long as there are enough vaccines available to reach all Californians 16 years old and older and hospital rates remain stable and low.

The Blueprint allows varying levels of social activity in a four-tiered system color coded from the strictest purple tier to the least restrictive yellow tier. While more and more activities are allowed in each tier, the state is looking to move “beyond the blueprint,” which would erase even the yellow tier restrictions.

The state says only “common sense health measures” like wearing masks will continue as most industries are allowed to return to their pre-pandemic practices.

Kern County Public Health’s nurse hotline, 661-677-4177, is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. The Fairgrounds Mass Vaccination clinic offers drive-thru Pfizer vaccine from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Appointments are not required, but can be made at myturn.ca.gov.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine authorized for people 16 and 17 years old.