Kern County

Retail shops and restaurants can reopen immediately in Kern County so long as they follow certain state guidelines.

The county received state approval late Wednesday afternoon to move faster into the second part of Stage 2 of Gov. Gavin Newsom's reopening plan, which includes the reopening of malls and restaurant dining rooms, as well as in-store shopping in retail establishments.

"This is a significant development and it happened in a tremendously quick amount of time," said County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. "I'm super proud of the county and everybody that's been working on his. We are pleased; it was very quick."

The county submitted its plan to reopen to the governor's office Tuesday afternoon, about 24 hours before it gained the OK from the state.

The state guidelines for retail and restaurants include requirements to train staff, wear masks and gloves in some situations, clean certain areas more frequently and implement social distancing.

A link to the guidelines can be found on kerncounty.com

The county was able to meet the requirements because the governor's office in recent days adjusted benchmarks that counties must meet. The state had originally required counties to have no deaths in the past two weeks from COVID-19 and no more than one case of the virus per 10,000 people in the past two weeks.

Kern County officials petitioned the governor to consider an alternative metric using the stability of hospitalizations for COVID-19, which the governor agreed to.

Along with retail shops, the Valley Plaza Mall and Tejon Outlets will be able to reopen.

"They have to reopen based on the guidelines so it may not pop up tomorrow morning but I know these businesses are getting this news and ... once they are able to meet these guidelines they will be able to open more broadly," Alsop said.

Kern County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Leticia Perez said the timing couldn't be better, before a long holiday weekend.

"The governor's decision to open during this Memorial Day weekend demonstrates his commitment to kick-starting our local economies once real community partnership is demonstrated at the local level," Perez said. "I for one am proud to see Kern County's local medical, business and community leaders take center stage for a well-deserved bow in front of all of California for community building during crisis."

There are other sectors in the second part of stage 2 that the county has not yet obtained approval to give the go ahead to reopen. They include schools, offices and other public spaces.

It's unclear what exactly would happen if the county falls below some of the benchmarks, but Alsop said he doesn't expect that to happen, saying he felt the county had "stable data points." But, he said, "... part of this is understanding that if things change in an extraordinary way, we're going to work in consultation with the state to address that."