Bar closures may help, but Kern’s COVID transmissions occur largely in homes, Public Health says


Closing Kern County bars to slow the spread of Covid-19 might make sense if bars were a major hotspot for the virus. But Kern County Public Health officials say it’s not — not here. Where, then, are these new cases coming from? The answer hits close to home.

Over the weekend Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the complete closure of bars in seven counties, including Kern and three adjacent counties — Los Angeles, Tulare and Kings.

But that may not do much good in Kern County, where, according to Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine, the number one point of origination for the virus’s spread is not bars or public venues but our own homes.

“We have seen most new cases come from household settings, not bars or public gatherings,” Constantine said.

So if our living rooms and patios are the primary places where the virus is being spread, what’s going to happen this Saturday, the Fourth of July, traditionally a big day for backyard barbecues and pool parties? County Public Health can’t do much about those.

“We do know with the holidays coming up,” Kern County epidemiologist Kim Hernandez said, “that people have an opportunity to historically gather. We want to remind people to keep their distance, particularly around something like a pool where you wouldn’t be expected, or and it would actually be not recommended, to wear a face covering.”

It’s tough enough to enforce social distancing and the wearing of masks in barroom settings. But backyards? It seems all public health officials can do as the Fourth approaches is hope for the best.

As for the governor’s mandated closure of local bars, Constantine said, Kern is still waiting for the state to issue enforcement guidance.

The county’s chief administrative officer, Ryan Alsop, noted that the state could compel cooperation by reminding bars that their liquor licenses could be at risk

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