Kern County moves into the ‘Red’

Additional operations allowed to resume with modifications under state regulations

Kern County moves into the ‘Red’By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

For months, many local “non-essential” businesses have had to shutter their indoor operations due to state COVID-19 mandates. But as of Tuesday, Oct. 13, the state announced that Kern County moved from the most-restrictive “purple” tier (Tier 1, widespread risk) to the less-restrictive “red” tier (Tier 2, substantial risk).

“The state’s framework allows counties moving from the purple to red tiers to reopen indoor operations at additional businesses and allows certain activities to resume, as long as appropriate protocols and protective measures are followed,” said a release from the Kern County Department of Public Health Services.

“I was very happy to hear the news and we tried to get the information pushed out to our members as soon as possible. They’ve been very eager to reopen,” said Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tim Smith. “When I contacted some of our restaurants on Tuesday after receiving the information that we moved into Tier 2, some of them were already prepared and had opened for lunch.

“For our small businesses, it’s really a win to be able to welcome the community back into their doors.”

Moving into the red means that over the last two weeks, Kern County has on average seen only 4-7 new daily cases (per 100,000 people) and has a positivity rate of less than 8% for all COVID-19 tests performed.

Per the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” the following businesses and activities are now allowed to resume with modifications:

• Personal-cares services are allowed to open indoors

• Museums, zoos and aquariums are allowed to open indoors with 25-percent capacity

• Places of worship are allowed to open indoors with 25-percent capacity, not to exceed 100 people

• Gyms and fitness centers are allowed to open indoors at 10% capacity

• Restaurants are allowed to open indoors with 25-percent capacity, not to exceed 100 people

• Movie theaters are allowed to open indoors with 25-percent capacity, not to exceed 100 people

Counties must remain in any given tier for at least three weeks for an opportunity to move down a tier. Data is reviewed weekly and counties must also meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks before progressing.

Should the county remain in Tier 2 by Oct. 28, schools can open for in-person instruction, with accommodations (see related story: http://www.news-ridgecrest.com/news/story.pl?id=0000011906).

“As a community we have made tremendous progress in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in Kern County,” said the county’s release. “While moving into the red tier is exciting news for our local businesses and residents, we encourage everyone to remain vigilant and continue practicing healthy habits including social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing hands frequently.”

Less than a week before the announcement, the Ridgecrest City Council discussed a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security grant of which some $73,000 was available to the city.

Based on council discussion, this round of funds was expected to be used for outdoor dining conversions for local restaurants.

“The lessening of restrictions ... will not impact the CARES grant for local restaurants,” said Meliza Ancheta from the city’s economic development department. “Nothing says that in 6 weeks we may not be back in the purple.”

Ancheta said our restaurants were “going to need outdoor dining to survive,” regardless - especially with cold and windy winters ahead.

To learn more about the state’s framework, visit covid19ca.gov/safer-economy or kernpublichealth.com/2019-novel-coronavirus.

Pictured: Locals may return to indoor dining, with limitations, as Kern County enters the less-restrictive “red” tier of the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Econonomy. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-10-16