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Timeline: How the pandemic unfolded in Kern County

Feb. 27: Kern County Public Health Services announces that 11 people in Kern County are being monitored for COVID-19 but all are considered low-risk to have the virus. There are about 60 cases nationwide at this time in people who have recently traveled outside the United States. However, that same day it's announced that a woman in Solano County is the first case for which the source of illness was not known, making it potentially the first case someone contracted it from someone else, known as community transmission.

March 5: While there are still no confirmed cases locally, anxiety has taken hold. Items like hand sanitizer and face masks are being bought out at local Target and Walmart stores, as well as smaller pharmacies. 

“There’s concern,” pharmacist Pat Person, who works at Ming and H Drugs, told The Californian.

The county public health department begins to hold daily internal meetings and stays in regular contact with various health, education and other organizations. But overall health officials urge everyone to remain calm. "We need to be alert, we need to be aware, we do not want another infectious disease in the United States," Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson says. "There's not a need to be fearful at this time."

March 12: After Gov. Gavin Newsom recommends the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state, local schools begin to cancel field trips, other travel and out-of-county sports competitions but school remains in session. Kern High School District suspends spring sports. In the next several days, Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield announce a move to online classes.

March 15: As the virus continues to spread in California and neighboring counties, it now seems only a matter of time before it arrives in Kern County. Lines, some 50-people deep, begin to form outside grocery stores. Shelves are bare, as bottled water, paper towels and even flour is hard to come by. And, of course, toilet paper, which became a long-running joke and an emblem of the panic buying the pandemic has induced in the United States.

Events are being canceled. And there is increasing talk of closing schools and working from home. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, are among the first American celebrities to announce they contracted COVID-19. Cases have now been confirmed in Fresno and other Central Valley counties.

March 15: Seven San Francisco Bay Area counties order their 7 million residents to shelter in place and only go outside for food, medicine and other essentials. Gov. Gavin Newsom directs bars and nightclubs to close statewide.

March 16: The heads of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools and Kern County Public Health Services Department announce mandatory school closings countywide to aid in the fight against coronavirus.

March 17: The first positive COVID-19 case in Kern is announced in a person who is visiting the county but resides elsewhere. 

There are 500 cases statewide and a dozen deaths so far.

March 19: Newsom issues the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order, closing all nonessential businesses and restaurant dining.

There are 15 cases in Kern County.

March 27: Public Health officials announce the first death from COVID-19 in Kern. Total cases climb to 40.

April 23: Kern County's cases stand at 838 when two local doctors who co-own a chain of urgent care centers call a news conference to urge reopening that goes viral on the internet and social media. 

April 24: Noriega Hotel, a venerated Basque restaurant that was awarded the James Bear Foundation Award, announces it will close after 89 years in operation.

April 28: Newsom unveils the state’s four-phase plan for reopening.

May 1: After weeks of shutdown and with COVID-19 having only a mild impact in Kern so far, county leaders plan to ask Newsom to reopen parts of the local economy ahead of other counties harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

There are a total of 1,133 local cases so far and 13 deaths.

May 4: Kern County Board of Supervisors chairwoman Leticia Perez and actor Sean Penn open Kern County’s first free COVID-19 testing center at the Kern County Fairgrounds with aid from Penn's emergency relief organization.

May 18: Following a decline in hospitalizations, Newsom announces new criteria allowing larger counties to reopen more of their economies if they had the virus adequately in check. Within a month nearly every county in the state is approved for reopening large segments of their economies, including retail shopping and dining in restaurants.

May 22: Kern receives the greenlight from the state to start reopening.

May 26: Newsom announces that hair salons and barbershops could reopen.

May 29: COVID-19 is taking hold in local nursing homes.  

Officials say that major outbreaks are underway at Kingston Healthcare Center and Valley Convalescent Hospital. Nursing home residents account for 23 of the county’s reported 37 COVID-19 related deaths.

June 11: Kern's COVID-19 cases, now totaling just under 4,000, begin a precipitous increase that eventually leads to the first major surge in cases. Because of climbing cases, Kern is put on a state watchlist of counties that may have to shut down parts of their economies if coronavirus numbers don't improve.

June 18: The state issues face-covering guidance, mandating people wear masks indoors and when social distancing isn't possible outdoors.

June 28: With virus cases and hospitalizations rising across the state, Newsom orders bars closed in seven counties, including Kern.

July 1: Newsom orders a three-week closure of bars, movie theaters, museums, wineries and indoor restaurant dining in 19 counties, including Kern. Kern's total cases now stand at just under 10,000, doubling in under two weeks.

July 7: Kern reports 800 new daily cases, which is the peak of the local summer surge. Total cases stand at 13,000. 

July 9: More than 200 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 with the virus and 117 have died.

Local hospitals begin to feel the strain of caring for an influx of coronavirus patients.

After ambulance traffic has to be diverted away from Dignity Health’s Mercy Hospital Downtown and Mercy Hospital Southwest because the two facilities reach a point where they can't take any more patients due to staffing, concerns arise about whether hospitals will have enough nurses to care for the sick.

July 21: Hospitalizations in Kern reach their peak at 280 COVID-19 patients. Of those, 66 are ICU patients. ICU numbers will continue to climb, reaching a high of 87 on Aug. 7.

July 24: Newsom imposes new restrictions on Kern and other counties that close indoor activity at gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, non-critical offices, hair and nail salons and malls.

Aug. 28: Newsom unveils a revised reopening plan, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, a four-tiered, color-coded path for county to come out of major shutdowns during the summertime surge in cases. It calls for the imminent reopening of hair salons, libraries and shopping malls, with additional reopenings tied to decreases in a county's COVID-19 case rates and test positivity levels. Kern starts out in the most-restrictive purple tier.

Total cases in Kern reach 30,000, doubling in a seven-week period. 

Sept. 1: The summer surge in cases tapers off. Of the total 30,000 cases in Kern, 27,000 cases were diagnosed in the three-month period beginning June 1. About 320 of the 350 deaths at this point happened during that time period.

Oct. 13: Kern County moves into the red tier of reopening. Schools can reopen in two weeks if Kern remains in the red tier during that time.

Oct. 28: Some schools begin to reopen, including Rosedale Union and Norris elementary districts, some smaller public districts, private elementary schools and Garces Memorial and Bakersfield Christian high schools. The largest districts, Bakersfield City and Kern High, continue with remote learning.

Nov. 1: Cases in Kern begin another ascent, marking the start of a massive winter surge in cases. Total cases stand at 35,000 and deaths at 450.

Nov. 17: Five weeks after it entered the red tier, a jump in cases pushes Kern back into the purple tier

Nov. 19: Citing the spread of COVID-19 in California at a rate not yet seen in the pandemic, Newsom imposes a limited stay-at-home order, prohibiting non-essential activity outside the home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Both Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood and the Bakersfield Police Department respond by saying they will not enforce the orders.

Dec. 9: Kern sets a record for positive COVID-19 cases tests in a single day with just under 1,500 new cases, almost twice the high point during the summer surge. 

Dec. 12: Many local schools and school districts that had reopened are forced to close because of rising cases and lack of substitutes to fill in for sick or quarantining teachers.

With 22,000 new cases in the previous six weeks, total cases hit 57,000.

Kern County would average about 1,000 new cases a day over the next four weeks.

Dec. 17: With 350 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, local hospitals are once again under strain. With 80 more patients hospitalized than during the summer surge, and no end in sight, it becomes clear that the surge will be much bigger than the previous one. The number of hospitalized patients eventually grows by another 100 patients.

Dec. 18: The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Bakersfield and frontline health care workers are the first to receive inoculations

Dec. 22: A record 16 people die in a single day from COVID-19.

Dec. 29: The Newsom administration announces that Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley will remain under a regional stay-at-home order until hospital capacity improves. 

Dec. 31: Citing a high number of calls for ambulances and long wait times to unload patients at cramped emergency rooms, Kern County implements for the first time ever a surge plan for ambulance response. Under the plan, ambulances may not respond to “low acuity” calls.

Jan. 11: Hospitals hit their peak number of COVID-19 patients, at 453, with more than 100 in ICU beds. So many people are dying, funeral homes are struggling to keep up with burials and cremations

Jan. 20: Kern County government opens a mass vaccination clinic at the fairgrounds. The site has the capacity to administer 5,000 vaccinations a day between walk-ups and the drive-thru. County leaders say at maximum capacity, the clinic will run for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, potentially for many months.

Jan 25: Kern County returns to the purple tier of the state's reopening plan after state officials lift a stay-at-home order, allowing local barbershops and hair and nail salons to reopen, and restaurants to resume outdoor dining.

Feb. 13: Kern County surpasses 100,000 total COVID-19 cases

Feb. 21: New cases have declined significantly and 100,000 vaccinations have been administered in Kern County.

March 1: Of the 103,000 cases total countywide, 70,000 cases were reported during the winter surge that started Nov. 1. About 500 of the 950 total deaths in the county happened during that time.

March 2: High school sports are able to resume in Kern County. Most large school district have announced plans to bring students back to campus for in-person learning in the coming weeks. Bakersfield City School District has set April 8 as the date it will resume, while Kern High has targeted April 12 as the day for seniors only to return to campus.

March 10: Despite getting close, Kern County has not advanced to the red tier of reopening and remains in purple. At 104, COVID-19 hospitalizations fall to less than a quarter of the high point of 453 people on Jan. 11.

Vaccinations in Kern stand at 163,000 doses administered.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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