By Celeste Ramos, South Kern Sol

Kern County remains in the purple tier — the most restrictive tier — as it doesn’t meet just one of the metrics set by the State’s blueprint for a safer economy, Kern public health officials said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. .

Kern’s adjusted case rate is at 11.8 percent, which remains higher than the State’s criteria, making it the only metric that prevents Kern from entering the red tier, according to Brynn Carrigan, the director of the Kern County Public Health Department. Kern’s testing positivity rate is at 4.9 percent, which meets the orange tier criteria, and its health equity positivity rate is at 7.6 percent, which meets the red tier criteria.  

These limits may be reduced as the state included a vaccine equity component in the Blueprint for a safer economy that changes the lowest quartile case rate when California reaches the goal of administering 2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. Currently, the case rate threshold  for the lowest quartile is 7 per 100,000 people to move the county into the red tier. Once California reaches this goal of administering 2 million COVID-19 vaccines, then the case rate minimum will become 10  per 100,000 to move into the red tier for counties. Additionally,  the case rate may be 4 per 100,000 people for a county to move into the orange tier under this 2 million dose goal scenario. Once this goal is met, the state will initiate a new goal of 4 million shots administered that will allow for the modifications of the county case rate that allows for less restrictions for industries, businesses, and schools. 

The state also set a goal of all counties to give  40 percent of the vaccine allotments to residents that are eligible to receive the vaccine in the lowest quartile. This includes those that are 65 years of age or older, emergency service, healthcare, agriculture, and education workers. Of the vaccine total given from the allotment, Kern County is still required to allocate 70 percent of vaccines to those 65 and older. The remaining 30 percent are for those essential worker personnel that are eligible to receive the vaccine currently. 

Kern Public health continues to create and work with outreach in areas that have been determined to be part of the lowest quartile. 

“We have been targeting our outreach efforts in these areas to encourage vaccination,” Carrigan told the Board of Supervisors. 

This outreach includes two mobile vaccine sites that will have the ability to administer doses to agricultural workers. Public health is repurposing its canvassing team to go door to door with information relation to vaccination. The County has also partnered with the COVID-19 Latino Task Force and with Arleana Waller to develop an African American vaccine campaign. 

Kern County will have received a total of 300,270 vaccines, including 8,500 of the new Johnson Johnson vaccines, this week. With the amount of vaccines received, 30,000 vaccines may be administered per week. 

With the new sites the capacity of “55,000 plus vaccines can be administered per week,” states Carrigan, if Kern received more vaccines. 

Per public official and community member requests, the Kern fairground mass vaccination site and sites in Arvin and Wasco will be open on Sundays to meet the need of availability for farm workers. The Ready Kern, reverse 911 line, is also operating as an information system for vaccines that target the lowest quartile areas. 

New developments of restrictions regarding live events and sport activities have been approved by the state. Effective March 5th, adult and youth recreational sports, must follow the college and professional sports requirements. These guidelines include periodic testing, safety plans, and screening.  On April 1st, live events will be permitted under both the purple or red tier. For counties in the purple tier, 100 people may attend a live event that resides within 120 miles radius of the location of the event with reservations.

As of Tuesday, there were a total of 104,443 cases of COVID-19 in Kern County and 942 COVID-19 related deaths.