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Kern County closer to reopening after health officer rescinds local coronavirus pandemic order

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — An order from the Kern County Health Officer put in place last month over the coronavirus pandemic that closed businesses and churches has been rescinded effective immediately, according to the Kern County Public Health Department.

In a release issued on Saturday, Michelle Corson, Kern Public Health spokesperson, said the decision was made after Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state is “days, not weeks,” away from changes to the stay-at-home order.

“In anticipation of the Governor’s transition of re-opening of the economy, we want the county to be positioned so we can quickly maximize our local response and clear the way for the changes ahead,” Corson said. 

The Kern County health order issued April 2, was issued as a way for Kern County to comply with Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home order and state health guidance about public gatherings. That order said Kern officials would enforce the governor’s directive by issuing fines, jail time, or both to non-essential businesses that stayed open in violation of the governor’s mandate.

Kern Public Health said it has been working with local businesses to provide education and resources during the stay-at-home order.

“We have responded to complaints from our residents and have been pleased with the cooperation from our local business community,” Corson continued.

Kern County Supervisor David Couch said Saturday’s move to rescind the order eliminates the county’s version of the statewide stay-at-home order and comes down to enforcement. Kern County will no longer enforce the order, Couch said, but it is up to the state to do so.

“In a nutshell, I think what the governor’s order was attempting to do was flatten the curve. I think we’ve been successful doing that here locally. You have very few people in hospitals. We have more people now that have recovered from COVID-19 that are at home. But as a reminder, the governor’s order remains in place to stay at home, but how it will be enforced, we’re not so sure,” Couch said Saturday.

State Sen. Shannon Grove issued a statement in support of the order being rescinded.

“Tonight’s action is a first step to allow families to get out more while still practicing proper physical distancing and is also a critical step to ensure that our local businesses can gradually start to resume operations again. 

“This is a responsible way to move forward as county leaders and public health officials will be working with local businesses to ensure proper protocols are in place. Local governments should have flexibility in the stay-at-home order so that they can begin to mitigate the psychological and economic consequences of this crisis.”

Shannon Grove (R) — Bakersfield

Additionally, Corson said Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to establish an ad hoc committee on April 21 to review and interpret the governor’s orders and lists of essential businesses, and to provide best practices, guidance and recommendations for implementing necessary changes locally for safely reopening businesses when the Governor’s orders are lifted.  

“Kern County Public Health looks forward to working with the Kern County Board of Supervisor’s newly established ad hoc committee as we implement our plan to safely re-open local businesses.”

Corson concluded by asking the public to keep adhering to the social distancing guidelines put in place by the governor.

“We continue to ask the community to adhere to the Governor’s order to stay at home and practice social distancing. These actions have been determined to have a significant impact on flattening our curve and helping slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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