BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kern County has passed tragic milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 2,500 confirmed deaths in our community. Many of those, following a grim trend.

Data from Kern Public Health shows COVID-19 continues to harm unvaccinated people more severely than anyone else. But Kern’s COVID death toll has fewer racial disparities than the state’s average.

Kern Public Health says COVID-19 has stolen 2,508 lives here at home. Local death demographics haven’t been updated since last September, but officials say those numbers haven’t changed very much over the past year.

Latinos make up 56% of Kern residents killed by the virus. African-Americans represent 5% of local COVID deaths and white Kern residents make up 31%. These numbers fall in line with population sizes according to Census data.

Statewide, Latinos face 43% of COVID deaths despite making up only 39% of the population. A similar imbalance also plagues African-Americans. But local health experts say still they face unique challenges treating some communities of color.

“We do treat those in general who are, let’s just say, underserved medically,” said Dr. Glenn Goldis, Chief Medical Officer for Kern Medical. “A lot of folks have not had good preventive care, so they tend to have more serious chronic medical conditions.”

More than 87% of people killed by the virus were unvaccinated. Meantime the CDC says most recent cases come from the BA.5 omicron subvariant, which is notoriously resistant to vaccines. But Dr. Goldis says it’s still important to take the shots.

“I don’t think anyone at this point can say if you get vaccinated, you won’t get sick. That’s not true,” said Dr. Goldis. “The good news? When you are vaccinated, you won’t get a severe disease, should you get infected.”

Dr. Goldis says health officials plan to release vaccines specifically designed to fight omicron variants of COVID as soon as this fall.