By Elizabeth Sanchez, South Kern Sol

Following last week’s soft opening, the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Kern County Fairgrounds will open to the public Wednesday and will be an appointment-only walk-up vaccination site.    

Based on California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan, those eligible to make an appointment for a vaccine include those in Phase 1A and those 65 years of age and older are eligible for vaccination.

“We are committed to bringing COVID-19 vaccines to the public as quickly and safely as possible,” said Matt Constantine, Director of Kern County Public Health. “Through this collaborative effort, we hope it is more convenient for Kern County residents to get vaccinated against this highly contagious virus.”

The site will offer vaccinations by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, January 27 – Saturday, January 30. As of right now, the site is able to offer 300 vaccines per day.

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The site will begin services gradually and will ramp up based upon vaccine allotment from the state. The first phase is the walk-up portion, but Public Health officials say they hope to quickly expand to include a drive-thru option, with the goal to provide 5,000 vaccinations per day.

The Kern County Fairgrounds location is now accepting appointments. To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at this location, call 661-868-0165.

Kern Public Health announced Monday 351 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 31,118 cases. Health officials also confirmed one new COVId-19 death, bringing the total to 591. As of Sunday, 88 people were in the ICU in Kern hospitals, leaving 20 ICU beds available, according to the State Public Health Department.

Due to improved projections in intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in California, the State also announced Monday morning it is lifting the Regional Stay at Home order for all regions. This action allows all counties statewide to return to the restrictions and framework of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and color-coded tiers that indicate which activities and businesses are open based on local case rates and test positivity.

“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.” 

However, the ICU capacity in three regions that had still been under the order – San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California — are above 15 percent, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order. This includes Kern County as it is part of the San Joaquin Valley region.

Kern County remains in the purple tier, the most restrictive tier of the blueprint for reopening the economy. Services and activities, such as outdoor dining and personal services, may resume immediately with modifications.

Additionally, the State has lifted the Limited Stay at Home Order, which was essentially a curfew that restricted activities after 10 pm.

Residents are urged to continue practicing healthy habits such as hand washing, physical distancing and wearing a face covering when in public.