Some Kern County residents can now expect to hear from a “reverse 911” system to inform them of nearby coronavirus testing sites.

In an effort to bring down COVID-19 transmission in parts of the county with the lowest socioeconomic scores, Kern officials have decided to notify residents of the presence of two mobile testing units through the county’s ReadyKern emergency notification system.

Typically used by emergency services to notify residents of things like fires, floods or earthquakes, the new use will allow the county to spread the news far and wide of nearby COVID-19 testing.

In an effort to advance further through the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which regulates the amount of economic activity that can take place in each county, Kern officials are trying to bring down the spread of COVID-19 in high-poverty areas that have seen higher rates of transmission.

The state tracks COVID-19 spread in impoverished areas through the health equity metric, which compares the positivity rate in the bottom quarter of the county’s census tracts to the county’s overall positivity rate.

As the state reported on Tuesday, Kern’s overall testing positivity rate was 4.4%, while the testing positivity rate in the bottom census tracts was 5.5%.

In order to advance to the next tier, Kern County will need to reduce its health equity metric to 5.2% or below.

The county will also have to reduce its overall case rate to 3.9 new cases per 100,000 residents or less. As of Tuesday, the county’s case rate was 5.7, but because the county is penalized for a testing rate that is less than the state average, its case rate is adjusted to 6.2.

By informing residents of the mobile testing sites, the county hopes it can reduce the gap between its testing rate and the state’s overall mark. Although the testing rate has improved, the county said during a news conference on Thursday that 418 more tests would need to take place per day to close the gap.

“We have to continue to reach for a moving target,” said Public Health Services Assistant Director Brynn Carrigan, noting that the state’s average had increased because so many counties were working to improve their own testing rates. “It’s important to remember that testing is also an important resource to slow the transmission of this disease in our community by identifying infected individuals who can be isolated.”

The two mobile testing sites devoted to the county’s poorer areas will move from place to place five days a week. Of the 156,778 Kern residents who have signed up for ReadyKern, those who live nearby will be notified that a site is being located in their area.

“As a community, we have made so much progress in reducing the transmission of this disease in Kern County,” Carrigan said. “However, now is the time to remain diligent in our efforts, not only to continue the downward trend in disease transmission, but to get the rest of our businesses reopened and to keep them open moving forward.”

To sign up for ReadyKern, visit readykern.com.

More information on county testing sites can be found on kerncounty.com.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.