‘Everything remains the same’

Public health officers clarify weekend announcement, unveils updated dashboard

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

‘Everything remains the same’Officials of Kern County Public Health Department clarified during a Monday press conference that their weekend announcement of a rescinded order does not change adherence to or enforcements of the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home directives.

KCPHD Communications Director Michelle Corson noted that it only cleared the hurdles associated with the anticipated revisions in the governor’s order. The county still has the authority to enforce compliance, as well as access emergency funds to reimburse costs associated with managing COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Everything remains the same,” she said. “We still adhere to the governor’s orders, but we are in a position where we are more nimble, and can respond more quickly … to respond to modifications of the governor’s order.

“As a county, we are ready and eager to hear what those next steps are going to be.”

As coronavirus outbreaks across the state begin to slow, individual communities — particularly those that have not been severely impacted by the illness — have begun expressing concern about prolonged closures in the commercial sector, and how those financial hardships will impact the economic wellness of the region.

The Board of Supervisors have formed an ad-hoc committee to interpret the governor’s guidance for essential businesses, and help those eligible for reopening transition as state mandates are revised.

Corson commended county residents for exercising social distancing in order to help reduce outbreaks. “You continue to impress us how you have adhered to the governor’s order. Together, we really are making a difference in our community.”

Megan Person, county communications officer, said that the rescinded order was in response to Newsom’s announcement that California is “days, not weeks” away from relaxing restrictions.

“What we don’t have insight into is which elements might change, or the timeline for revisions,” she said. “But we want to be in a position to act quickly.”

She said that so far county compliance has also been commendable. Out of 2,000 citizen complaints for businesses operation inappropriately, law enforcement has only had to issue two citations to businesses that were repeatedly asked to close.

Education and enforcement of the governor’s order will continue, said Person.

County officials also announced that County Counsel had consulted with an expert on HIPAA, as well as a statistician, to determine what information could be released about positive cases of COVID-19 without violating individual rights.

Kern County Senior Epidemiologist Kim Hernandez said that in addition to the information already reported on the county dashboard (www.kernpublichealth.com), browsers can now view information by race, sex and zip code.

“Our residents need to stay the course,” said Corson. Updates from the governor’s office will be reported as the county learns how to “slowly and safely” reopen.

Story First Published: 2020-05-04