Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a new set of rollbacks to the re-opening of California's economy Monday afternoon, based on the rapid rise in positive COVID-19 tests coming in from most parts of the state.
Initially, Kern County public health officials anticipated Kern having to implement the new procedures by Saturday. However, a Twitter post from the county said that won't happen as Kern is no longer on the state coronavirus watch list.
Newsom's new order states that 30 counties on the state's monitoring list of those who hit certain COVID-19 thresholds will also have to suspend in-door malls, hair salons, gyms in-door church services, non-critical offices and other personal service providers.
The new rollbacks also includes closure of all California in-door dining, in-door operations of theaters, museums and similar venues and ordered all bars to suspend all operations. Restaurants can still conduct outdoor service and curbside pickup.
Kern County was initially part of the list, but Newsom's office issued a correction later Monday afternoon stating it was "not yet" subject to the orders. Then the late Tuesday Twitter post knocked that possibility off the table.
However, Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard, who spearheads a committee to re-open Kern County along with Supervisor Zack Scrivner, told the Bakersfield Californian that county will likely re-appear on that list at some point in the future.
“But the overwhelming conclusion was these are people's businesses and lives and jobs and they deserve as much time as possible to land the crash landing that is before them,” Maggard sand the Bakersfield Californian report. “It's the moral, ethical thing to do to give them a shot. People have bought materials, food, they have employees coming into work, they have appointments scheduled ... it's a terrible dilemma for businesses.”
The state monitors counties for data reported, including the percentage of those hospitizalized for COVID-19 infections and the per capita rate. If a county brushes past those metrics for more than three days, it goes on the list.
Kern County started re-opening as part of a phased plan in May, after it received permission from the state to do so early. However, in the last month, the county has reported increased levels of COVID-19 positive tests.
Kern Public Health Services lead epidemiologist Kim Hernandez said contact tracers that family and friends gathering have contributed to the community spread.
In his speech Monday, Newsom continued to stress the state will likely see fluctuations for the foreseeable future, noting the virus would remain active through next year.
"I hope all of us recognize that if we were still connected to some notion that somehow when it gets warm it will go away, or somehow it's going to take summer months or weekends off, this virus has done neither," Newsom said.
The Monday orders are part of a "dimmer switch" approach the governor said will be used to modify the state's re-opening, depending on how well or poorly counties or the state as a whole does in flattening the COVID-19 curve.
While outdoor activities are allowed to continue, the feasibility of such actives in Kern County, especially East Kern's desert environment, during the summer remains dubious, according to Maggard. Central Valley temperatures can go past 100 degrees; high desert temperatures in California City, Mojave and Ridgecrest can soar past 108 degrees on some days.
"It's no big deal for outside assembly to occur on the coast when it's 70 degrees but vast areas of the San Joaquin Valley are too hot," Maggard told the Californian.