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County employees can now get paid time off for completing new COVID-19 testing program

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Kern County employees can now get paid time off for completing a new COVID-19 testing program. 

During its Tuesday morning meeting, the Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an emergency resolution allowing for the implementation of the program, which is in effect through the end of the year. 

As part of the program, any employee who completes at least six COVID-19 tests between now and Dec. 30 will receive eight hours of paid time off that can be used next year. To be eligible for time off, each employee must submit proof of testing by Jan. 15. 

County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said employees who participate in the program will be able to take tests on paid county time. However, employees must make every effort to minimize the amount of county time used to take the tests.

Employees are strongly encouraged to use the free county testing sites to complete their tests. 

Alsop said the goal of the new program is to increase COVID-19 testing in Kern County, as the state is now requiring the county to increase testing in order for it to move forward into the next tier of reopening. Currently, the county is in Tier 1, the most restrictive tier. 

“The adoption of this program is urgent, given the revelation that our ability to open the economy hinges on increased testing,” Alsop said. 

Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine said at the meeting that while the county’s case rate is below the 7 percent threshold required to move into the next tier, the state has adjusted the county case rate because the amount of people being tested is below the state average.

Constantine said the county’s average daily test rate is 150 people per 100,000, far below the state’s rate of 216 people per 100,000. Because of this, the state has adjusted Kern County’s rate up to 7.5 percent, keeping the county in Tier 1.

“In order for us to remove that adjustment, we have to test 607 more people a day to meet the state average,” he said. 

Constantine said the case rates are reassessed every week. 

The new requirements come as the county has been making progress in curbing the number of COVID-19 cases in the county. 

“We have been making significant strides in our numbers,” he said. “With the adjustment, it puts us over a little bit, so we have more work to do.”

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