Hours from inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden paused on what might have been his triumphal entrance to Washington Tuesday evening to mark instead the national tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic with a moment of collective grief for Americans lost.

Local health officials were optimistic Monday the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive at local hospitals any day now, bringing a glimmer of hope to an increasingly dire situation in Kern County, which is seeing a record level of new cases that foretell many difficult weeks ahead.

Close to $1 billion flowed directly to businesses in Kern County this year as part of the Paycheck Protection Program meant to keep small businesses afloat amid the economic fallout of the pandemic, according to federal data released earlier this month.