Ongoing flux strains us all

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Ongoing flux strains us allThe constantly changing status of operations, and shifting state guidelines, is a source of frustration for businesses, services providers and citizens as Kern County numbers drive Ridgecrest and other communities back to the penalties for landing on the state’s “monitoring list.”

Months ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom began relaxing California’s state-wide closures by sector and county. By June, most industries in Ridgecrest had been allowed to resume modified operations.

But Newsom warned that state public health officials would continue to monitor COVID-19 statistics — including new deaths, positivity rates and hospital capacities — that would dictate whether counties would be allowed to remain open at that level.

Statewide, California’s numbers for the virus prompted Newsom to close indoor operations for restaurants, bars, wineries, movie theaters and other public gathering spots.

On Saturday, Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine confirmed that our county had been flagged for not meeting state metrics. That trend kept up for three days, which resulted in the order to shut down gyms and fitness centers, churches, salons, malls, tattoo parlors and more as of today.

The order also prohibits Sierra Sands and other local schools from starting the year with on-campus instruction (see related story: news-ridgecrest.com/news/story.pl?id=0000011606).

At press time, California had the second-highest number of reported COVID-19 cases (after New York) with 422,313.

However, for both deaths per million and cases per million, California was listed well below the average for aggregated data in the United States.

Kern County is ranked sixth-highest in cases, with 11,998, and 10th in number of deaths, with 115. In Ridgecrest, the cumulative and per-capita numbers are significantly lower (see related story, this edition) than both state and county averages.

Supervisor Mick Gleason, Mayor Peggy Breeden and Ridgecrest Regional Hospital CEO Jim Suver have reached out to the state with a request for regional variance for our community, citing our comparatively low infection rates and geographical distance from the most significant areas of outbreak in West Kern.

So far, there is no indication that such a reprieve will be granted.

Constantine reported to the Ridgecrest City Council last week that our county is expected to surpass its capacity for hospitalizations by July 28.

Although officials have not provided a date for when we are expected to be off the monitoring list, some predict that it is weeks, if not months, away.

Counties must be off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days before sectors are allowed to resume modified operations.

Public health officials continue to stress the importance of masking and distancing protocols, which they say will aid containment of the virus and allow businesses to operate under the most relaxed restrictions.

Pictured: Ale’s (pictured), Kristy’s, Mac’s and Lugo’s restaurants are among the local eateries who have opened up outdoor seating to offset the loss of indoor dining. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-07-24