Virus comes to Kern

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Virus comes  to KernAt press time, Kern County Public Health Department confirmed positive results for COVID-19 for one visitor and two residents.

KCPH Department Head Matt Constantine announced that the result of the visotr at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. The other results were released Thursday morning.

The location of the individuals had not been released at press time, but during Board of Supervisor meeting, Constantine told county officials that his office continued to investigate and maintain safety protocols to protect the community.

The announcement came during a special item added the day before to follow national and state actions to declare Kern County in a state of emergency.

County offices have been closed, for the most part, and only essential staff will be showing up to work. All county employees will continue to be paid, and nonessential staff will continue to work remotely and stay responsive to their department leads, said County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

In keeping with other state directives, Kern County has canceled gatherings and encouraged the closure of non-essential businesses such as bars and gyms. Restaurants are recommended to encourage take-out only options to patrons.

Alsop said that he and his staff intend to continue operations and services, even as they plan to implement further directives to encourage social distancing to inhibit contagion.

He noted to the board that the emergency declaration will qualify the county for federal and state assistance during the crisis.

Supervisor Mike Maggard commended the work of the public health department during the rapidly developing situation. He asked the board to consider moving to telephonic meetings with streaming options for the public.

Supervisor Zack Scrivner also recommended combining the agendas for the March 24 and 31 meetings, and hold one session on March 31. The board will go into Easter recess after that, and can reevaluate for the April 21 return.

Supervisor Mick Gleason, who represents the Indian Wells Valley, also commended Alsop for his proactive response to the ongoing threat.

“I’m trying to get my head around this,” he said, in relation to the closure of county buildings and potential disruptions to service. “I guess this is where we are at.”

Gleason emphasized the importance of “flattening the curve” — which health officials have characterized as the attempt to slow the spread of virus in order to contain the disease so that the demand on health care institutions does not exceed current capacity.

However, he said, “There are going to be impacts.”

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Alsop, adding that he and his staff were trying to approach the challenge with common sense, calmness and effective planning.

“I want to thank our employees for their continued support and cooperation during this time.” In a couple of weeks, those employees will wake up to find their paychecks deposited and their benefits paid.

“But we also have a lot of people in our community who will be struggling, who are not lucky enough to have a guaranteed paycheck,” said Alsop.

The loss of business for restaurants, bars and other service providers who cannot afford to sustain their employees through a weeks-long closure or downturn will be crippling to many.

“I would ask that our community have an appreciation for those in our service industry who are going to be impacted most,” said Alsop.

He encouraged Kern County residents to keep these service people in mind, and support restaurants and other impacted businesses whenever possible.

“They are worried about where their next paycheck is going to come from. Keep those people in mind.”

Pictured: Kern County 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-03-20