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UPDATED: Kern County to enter the red tier on Wednesday

Kern County will move into the red tier on Wednesday after a steady decline of coronavirus spread over the last several weeks.

Entering the red tier allows higher levels of business and social activity. On Wednesday, restaurants will be officially allowed to serve meals indoors and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen with restrictions in place. Stores and shopping centers will also be allowed to increase the number of people inside their establishments. Gyms can also open indoors, with capacity limitations.

According to the state’s system of governing the activity that can occur within counties, the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the red tier is the third most restrictive tier after the purple tier. If COVID-19 continues to fall, Kern County could be eligible to drop into the orange tier and even the lowest yellow tier.

Kern County first qualified for the red tier last week, but the Blueprint for a Safer Economy dictates that counties must meet metrics for two weeks before dropping tiers.

The county is just now entering the red tier after a winter surge caused hundreds to become sick each week. However, COVID-19 has fallen steeply in March, with some metrics qualifying the county for the next lowest tier. The earliest Kern County could move into the orange tier is now April 7 if the metrics continue to drop.

As of Tuesday’s weekly update, Kern County’s COVID-19 metrics were as follows:

  • Case rate: 5.5 new cases each day per 100,000 people. It must be below 8 per 100,000 for the red tier
  • Positivity rate: 2.8 percent. It must be below 4.9 percent for the red tier
  • Health equity metric (positivity rate in poor zip codes): 3.9 percent. It must be below 8 percent for the red tier.

Last week’s COVID-19 metrics:

  • Case rate: 7.8 new cases each day per 100,000 people
  • Positivity rate: 3.7 percent
  • Health equity metric: 4.9 percent

Supervisor Mike Maggard praised the county's vaccination efforts at a Tuesday board meeting.

“It’s just fantastic that we have the ability to distribute so much," he said. "I just hope that we get the ability to get more vaccines so we can get more people on board and really turn the corner on this thing.”

But Kern County's allotment of vaccine has fallen over the past week. On Tuesday, the Kern County Public Health Department reported the county received 23,890 doses last week compared to a high of 30,270 the week of March 8.

The drop was attributed to the county receiving no Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which are expected to return to Kern in the near future.

So far, 230,164 doses have been administered to residents, with 75,509 people — or 8.2 percent of the population — completing their vaccination series.

At total of 37 percent of the county's 65-and-older population has been fully vaccinated. Eight more weeks will be needed to vaccinate the entire 65-and-older population at the current rate.

With Tuesday's update, only nine counties remain in the purple tier, and 83 percent of the state's population is in the red tier.

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

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