COVID-19 in Kern: Worst may be yet to come, model indicates

Staff Writer
Taft Midway Driller
Kern County Director of Public Health Matt Constantine discusses latest model and what may be in store for Kern County in the coming months

It has been three months since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Kern County.

Since then, 54 deaths have been linked to coronavirus and 3,462 people have been infected.

But the worst could be yet to come, if a model presented by the Kern County Health Department proves accurate.

Kern County might not see a peak in infections until early next year and its ability to care for the most critically ill patients could be overwhelmed. The county could run out of intensive care unit beds by the end of next month and even adding more beds for a surge might not be enough.  

It's not a prediction, but it is a definite possibility, county officials say.

"That causes us some concern," Director of Public Health Matt Constantine said.

The models, provided to the county by the state, project that with the current information, Kern County will exceed its current level of 78 ICU beds by the end of July and, by mid-November, exceed the county's surge level of 294 ICU beds.

The models project infection rate will peak in February 2021 with 679 hospitalizations and 436 people in the ICU.

Currently, there are 74 people hospitalized.

Constantine said current precautions, including the use of face masks and social distancing, need to continue to lower infection rates so the models predictions don't come true.

"The model shows we need to do more. We need to flatten the curve so we have the ability to care for everybody we may need to put in an ICU bed," said Constantine. "The last two months have been effective at bringing down that curve, bringing down that peak. We need to bring it down even more."

Currently, the infection rate is on the increase.

For a time, the county was seeing about 30 new infections each day. Now an average of more than 80 are being reported (there were 86 on Monday) and the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Kern County.

Russell Judd, CEO of the county-operated Kern Medical, said people the projections that come from the models are subject to change and people can effect the change.

"If people follow the recommendations, this graph does not have to become our reality and this can stay within our capacity to manage," Judd said. "Do not take this disease lightly. It is significant. It is deadly. It causes ICU stays, it causes hospitalizations."