The Kern County Fairgrounds will serve as an auxiliary medical site to handle a potential overflow of patients should local hospitals reach capacity due to a peak in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks as many health experts predict, local officials said Monday. The fairgrounds will also house 15 trailers the state is sending to help manage the virus among the homeless population by providing a place to isolate and recover.
Those plans were announced during a Monday morning news conference where more than half a dozen local government officials spoke about the response to COVID-19 and Kern County's top public health official declared a local health emergency. As cases of the virus continue to climb — 24 new cases were announced Monday — and the community enters a sustained period of crisis operations, it marked the first time a coalition of local leaders came together to reassure the community and address ongoing efforts to respond to the epidemic.
Kern County now has 74 cases of the virus, including one death. Two visitors to the county have also tested positive.
Approximately 2,500 tests for the virus have been done and about 1,000 are pending results.
"I'm frequently asked, are we prepared?" said Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh. "Public health, our local health officials, our local health providers ... they are prepared. They’re ready."
Local officials said the following:
All 10 acute care hospitals in the county have drawn up plans to increase capacity by 40 percent in the event of a "supermax surge" of the virus, said Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd. The "alternative care site" at the fairgrounds would be used in the event that local hospitals become inundated, Constantine said.
"So if all 10 hospitals were to receive patients that were beyond their ability …. we need to have the ability to care for those individuals…," Constantine said. "So this alternative care site is now being provided. Kern County has a two-week supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers and has asked the state to replenish those supplies, Constantine said.
He also said information was released by the state on Friday to help local communities anticipate when they could see the virus peak. The county is in the process of analyzing that data and has not yet reached an estimated time period.
Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg urged residents not to congregate in parks and to use social distancing. Clegg said the city would immediately post more signage in parks and cordon off playground and other park equipment.
Last week the city said it would take down basketball rims and lock tennis courts. People have been seen gathering in the parks by city workers and community members who have reported it to the city.
The public health department sent inspectors out to 30 to 40 non-essential businesses in recent days that have continued to operate despite orders to shut down. They were given a written notice to comply with the orders, Constantine said, and many immediately closed.
Clegg said the city had set up a business resource for those affected by the pandemic. And Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop implored people to buy from restaurants.
"They are the soft underbelly of this economy," Alsop said. "They’re the first to feel (the effects)."
County Supervisor Leticia Perez spoke about a statewide ban on evictions announced last week and said residents with questions could contact her office for help.
Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow reviewed progress being made to help the tens of thousands of K-12 students in Kern continue to learn at home and receive meals.
People in need of internet service who do not have it can go to the parking lot of any county library branch or county building to get wireless service, Alsop said.
Goh and many others called on the community to continue social distancing, washing hands and staying at home as much as possible.
"I'm imploring our community: stay at home," she said. "Stay at home for yourself, your family, your friends, for our community."