Experts predict coronavirus surge during holiday season

Coronavirus

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s one week before Christmas, and the coronavirus shows no signs of slowing down as one out of every 16 Kern County residents has had COVID-19. Public health officials report 886 new cases and three lives lost to the disease today. That means more than 56,000 people have caught COVID-19 in Kern since March, and 479 have died.              

The number of local daily cases is climbing faster than ever. The daily average is now 925 new cases a day. We’re just now seeing cases from Thanksgiving, and experts predict Christmas will create a similar surge. 320 are hospitalized with the virus in Kern right now. That’s one person shy of our record from the summer months. Hospitals are seeing patients pour in from Thanksgiving, and doctors expect we’ll see more hospitalizations around Christmas. That’s why state officials are afraid hospitals will run out of beds. AS of this afternoon, there were only 13 ICU beds available in Kern.\

Kern County residents face unique challenges ahead of the most wonderful time of the year. The arrival of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine offers a glimmer of hope, but doctors say we’re not out of the woods yet.        

“I fully expect the surge to continue right on through Christmas,” said Glenn Goldis M.D., the Chief Medical Officer for Kern Medical. “So we may yet see continued climb of case numbers and death numbers. And unfortunately it may be exacerbated by the ongoing holiday gatherings.”

The current surge follows the same pattern we saw in the summer. Health experts say Fourth of July gatherings led to a spike in case numbers. Kern saw flood of cases followed by an increase in hospitalizations about a week later, with deaths lagging behind by at least two weeks. The Thanksgiving surge followed the same trend and we’re seeing those case numbers roll in right now, with over 7,000 this week. That’s why health experts say Christmas week could bring the most severe wave of the coronavirus so far, and the numbers won’t show up right away.

The CDC says most patients take two to 14 days to show symptoms after they get sick, and it can take up to a week or longer to get test results as labs become overwhelmed. Hospitalizations take even longer to appear in data as symptoms worsen and more people look to hospitals for care. Death totals rise last, as patients pass away and experts determine whether COVID-19 contributed to their deaths. Experts say the safest way to open gifts with your family this Christmas is from a distance.

“We know this is difficult, but finding ways to celebrate via Zoom, phone calls, really trying to connect in safe ways is the best recommendation,” said Michelle Corson, the Public Information Officer for the Kern Public Health Department. “And it is the stay-at-home order currently not to gather with anyone outside of your household.”

If you choose to celebrate in person, your Christmas dinner could look different this year.
“Open your windows. Do anything you can to increase that air ventilation and circulation. If you’re gonna be eating a meal only one person should be serving the food,” said Corson.

Wearing masks and socially distancing can protect you and your family from the coronavirus. Visit Kernpublichealth.com to find testing sites near you.

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