Hair salons, libraries and shopping malls in Kern County can reopen as soon as Monday with certain restrictions under a new process for reopening businesses unveiled by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday.
Kern County leaders addressed the new guidelines during a news conference Monday.
Kern County Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine said the state's new guidelines switched from a monitoring list based on several metrics to a color-coded four-tier system that measures two metrics.
Those two metrics include daily average cases and percentage of cases over a seven-day period.
Kern County remains at just over 10 percent for percentage of positive cases and rates at 13.4 cases per 100,000 people.
The colored tiers indicate the severity of a county’s COVID-19 outbreak: Purple for widespread, red for substantial, orange for moderate and yellow for minimal. Kern and 37 other counties are in the purple category. They also correspond to the extent reopening is allowed. For example, restaurants in counties in the purple tier can only offer outdoor dining, but in counties in the red tier a limited amount of indoor dining is allowed.
Constantine said the new guidelines to move into a lower tier require Kern County to go below 8% per week.
"In order to move to less restrictive tier, we would need to meet those new criteria for 14 days for both metrics," Constantine said.
Kern County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop, the county's top employee, noted the system provides new information yet slows down full re-opening.
"It is clarity that we have been seeking for a while," Alsop said. "For the first time Kern County residents have a single online source to look up whether a business or activity is allowed."
There are caveats, he added.
"The changes the governor has made has made opening up a slow and stringent process," Alsop said. "A county must remain in a tier for three weeks before it can move to the next tier."
If a county's metrics worsen for two weeks, it will be placed in a more restrictive tier.
Thirty-eight counties, including Kern County, remain in the purple
Retail shopping centers can re-open with a 25% capacity limits. Food markets and public spaces will remained closed within shopping malls.
Hair salons and barbershops may reopen with restrictions. Nail salons remained closed for indoor operations, as do gyms and fitness centers.
"This is an industry that was hard hit by the pandemic and we are pleased to see that those businesses can move back indoors," he said.
Everything else remains closed to indoor operations in the purple stages, including restaurants. Bars remain closed period.
The idea is to prevent a surge in infections, like the one between Memorial Day and July 4 as the state began reopening the first time around. In Kern County, a dramatic spike in cases during that time drove up hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients. Local hospitals were filled to capacity, at one point prompting the state to send in National Guard nurses and doctors to assist with treating patients. The county subsequently signed a $12 million contract to secure additional ICU nurses.
Even though Kern is in the most restrictive tier, restrictions on certain business sectors have been loosened. Hair salons and barbershops can open indoor operations starting next week as long as they adhere to certain guidelines. Malls and shopping centers, which could only do curbside pickup, can open at 25 percent capacity but common areas and food courts must remain closed. Libraries can also open at 25 percent capacity.
"This is the world we are currently living in and the state is calling the shots," Alsop said.