A total of 27 local doctors, medical executives and health officials have endorsed a letter requesting Gov. Gavin Newsom change two coronavirus metrics in a way that would allow Kern County to reopen at an accelerated pace.
In the letter, Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine and Public Health Officer Kristopher Lyon, along with the CEOs and medical officers of the county’s 10 acute care hospitals, stand behind an effort to convince the governor’s office to allow Kern County to be judged by different measurements than the rest of the state.
Newsom is allowing certain counties to move quicker through the second stage of his four-part reopening plan as long as they meet an array of readiness criteria. If those counties meet the criteria, they can begin offering dine-in service in restaurants, relax retail restrictions and open child care facilities along with schools.
While Kern County does not meet two of the requirements, local officials suggested in the letter “better benchmarks” for measuring coronavirus impacts.
“This letter serves to inform you that our 10 hospitals and the professionals in our Kern County Health Department are in unanimous agreement that Kern County is ready to accelerate the opening of our businesses and sectors, working within established guidelines,” the letter reads.
At issue are the requirements by the governor’s office that counties must have no more than one COVID-19 case per 10,000 residents within the last 14 days and no deaths over the same time period in order to allow an accelerated opening.
To do so, Kern County could not exceed 90 positive tests over two weeks, which seems unlikely as the county has averaged about 30 new positive tests per day recently.
In the letter, the county argues many of the positive cases detected in the community will be mild or asymptomatic, not requiring medical attention. Plus, the county has expanded testing, which will likely increase the number of positive tests.
The county asked the governor to consider only serious illnesses when determining Kern County’s reopening status by measuring the COVID-19 hospitalization rate per 10,000 residents or per total number of positive cases.
When considering deaths, the county seemingly referred to the Kingston Healthcare Center, saying one skilled nursing facility had skewed the death count.
“Our hospitals are sensitive to the fact that staff of these facilities are members of our community and have the capacity to spread COVID-19,” the letter says. “However, we believe our robust capacity to contain this ‘hot spot’ through contract tracing, community surveillance and our ability to support the isolation/quarantine of individuals sufficiently mitigates the potential for community spread.”
The county asked the governor to distinguish between the number of overall deaths from the deaths among patients living in skilled nursing facilities.
“We have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one and have a firm understanding of the data-driven metrics that will provide Kern County a safe path to begin reopening,” the letter says.
County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop wrote in an email Friday he had confirmation that the governor had received the letter.