Kern County is no longer meeting state thresholds for managing COVID-19 transmission as of Thursday morning and is now one of 11 counties on a state watchlist.
"Kern County is experiencing elevated disease transmission and increasing hospitalization," says an entry for Kern County on the California Department of Public Health's "targeted engagement" list.
The website says drivers of elevated virus spread in Kern are outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities and in state and federal prisons, and residents in surrounding counties being admitted to the county hospital.
A CDPH county monitoring chart shows Kern is out of compliance for its positivity rate and increase in hospitalizations.
A county must not have more than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,00 residents and a positivity rate above 8 percent, according to state thresholds. Kern is seeing 78 cases per 100,000 cases and its positivity rate is 8.2 percent, and its increase in hospitalizations was 24 percent on Thursday.
Counties that have a 10 percent increase in confirmed hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the past three days compared to the previous three days are deemed to have an increasing rate. Kern's was 24 percent as of Thursday.
"It's very important that all residents in Kern County and all businesses that are reopening follow public health guidance," said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop during a news briefing Thursday morning. "Those guidelines need to be followed, if you're going out to eat or get a haircut it's important you follow the guidance of the establishment where you're going."
The county reported 74 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday morning, and deaths remain at the previously reported 51.
Once a county is on the state's watchlist, the state health department protocols say the state will work with the the county on how to respond.
"If a county is not able to address a localized outbreak it should consider reinstitution sector limitations or more general stay-at-home provisions," according to information from the state health department’s website.
Kern County is currently exploring what it will do, Alsop said.
"We are going to continue to have those discussions. ... if we're not able to address those trends, we may have to act locally in some way to pull back. That doesn't mean we close everything down necessarily but we're going to have to be open to considering actions that we may need to take if we're unsuccessful in getting upward trends under control," Alsop said.
If the county still fails to make sufficient progress, the state's public health officer may intervene and take action.