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Gov. Newsom orders Kern, 40 other Counties, back to Purple COVID-19 Tier

From our Supervisor

On November 17, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered Kern, and 40 other California counties, back into the most economically restrictive Purple Tier. These 41 counties represent 95 percent of our state's population.

COVID-19 infection rates have been increasing all across the country, moving largely in an east to west direction. California counties have been monitored by the Governor's Office and the CA Department of Public Health (CDPH) using three metrics: Case Rates, Testing Positivity Rates and an "Equity" measurement. In addition, Kern has been penalized arbitrarily by the governor with an "adjusted case rate" that reflects our overall numbers of tests administered per week falling behind the state average. The adjusted case rate penalty is the reason that the County of Kern has been encouraging more testing in our community, even incentivizing our own employees to get tested, and now implementing a new program where $25 Visa gift cards are distributed in our most vulnerable census tracts to residents that visit testing sites. Our hope is that this improves both our "equity" measurement and our testing rate, and the $360,000 allocated to this gift card program is another infusion of economic aid into our economy that supplements the $30 million in small business forgivable loans we have administered for COVID-19 relief already.

Over the last week, Kern has seen a large increase in all COVID-19 metrics. On November 17, our Case Rate was 16.1 percent unadjusted, and 17.9 percent adjusted (penalty added), while a seven percent rate is required for Kern to move back into the less restrictive Red Tier.

Now that Kern has returned to the Purple Tier, Governor Newsom has ordered restaurants, movie theaters, fitness centers, and churches to cease indoor operations, and retail is restricted to 25 percent capacity. In addition, there has been talk from the governor and CDPH of freezing counties in the Purple Tier, issuing new masking guidelines, and the latest is a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew effective November 21.

Many of us, particularly our business community, are extremely frustrated with the changing directives and orders from Governor Newsom, which are affecting our lives and our economy. Dissatisfaction with the state's handling of this pandemic is widespread, which is evidenced by the 42 lawsuits, 19 currently pending, that have been filed against the Newsom Administration and the state on behalf of restaurants, gyms, churches and others.

Our local contact tracing shows no evidence that restaurants, gyms, churches or schools are contributing to significant spread in our community, nor do we have any evidence that they are the catalyst to the surge in case rates we are experiencing now. In short, it is not the fault of those businesses who are going to great lengths to be safe, who have been following the rules for months and months, that the virus spread is increasing recently.

Our local data indicates that this virus is being spread with regularity through private social gatherings and in situations where individuals are not practicing, or are ignoring altogether, the litany of best public health practices we have heard for the past nine months of this pandemic. Staying vigilant, washing of hands, avoiding touching your face, isolating when you are sick, regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces, distancing, wearing a mask when you are among large groups and can't distance, and keeping yourself in overall good health through diet, exercise and rest, are the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, and any other virus.

As Newsom now orders Kern County back into the more restrictive Purple Tier, it certainly does not help, and only adds to our frustration and overall confusion, when we see reports that the very state officials demanding rigorous adherence to state directives are not adhering to those same directives and orders themselves. Newsom's attendance at a November 6 birthday dinner with lobbyists, and even top brass from the California Medical Association, which represents 50,000 doctors, apparently violated the governor's own guidelines for dining indoors, mixing with multiple household members, and masking. Newsom's display of hypocrisy in ignoring his own public health guidelines, and tone-deafness to attend a $500 per plate dinner when so many in California have lost their jobs and businesses, undermines his credibility and makes us all question the efficacy of his directives.

Nevertheless, the virus is here in our community, and will continue to spread until an overwhelming majority of us contract it, and/or we have a viable, effective and safe vaccination made widely available.

Thank you to those working all over this county in essential functions every day. Our health care community, particularly our doctors and nurses, our first responders, and everyone continuing to do their work under difficult circumstances to deliver goods and services to us deserve our gratitude.

Thank you to our schools, including elected board members, administrators and teachers for everything. They have managed to bring some of our children back in the classroom, safely and responsibly. The educational, social and emotional toll classroom shutdowns have wreaked on so many of our children is not fully understood, but parents and experts in health and education know that damage is being done every day schools are closed. As a parent of four children currently restricted to "distance learning" only, I understand the challenges and stress that so many parents and students are facing throughout our communities. I strongly believe that our children need to all go back to school as soon as possible.

I also believe that our businesses should remain open, and that they can do so safely and responsibly. However, the decision to allow our businesses the freedom to operate during this pandemic is solely Governor Newsom's. As your County Supervisor, I will continue to advocate for our businesses, churches and schools to open, using the best health and safety practices that we have learned over the past nine months. The Board of Supervisors will also continue to focus on the things we can control in our county, including increased testing, contact tracing, economic relief and assistance, and strong public education efforts.

It is an honor to represent you on the Board of Supervisors. Stay safe, stay well and God bless.