BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Today marks one year since COVID-19 was confirmed in Kern County. Since then, pain has stricken all of us.
In one year, 993 lives have been lost to COVID-19. So much has happened this year. It has been historical, gut-wrenching and exhausting. However, things are looking better one year later. We’re taking a look back at how we got here and the series of events that changed our lives.
It was New Year’s Eve when Chinese health officials notified the World Health Organization about something peculiar: a patient was showing signs of pneumonia — but the symptoms were different. Something seemed new.
A week later, China and the WHO confirmed a new virus belonging to the coronavirus family. Two days later, on Jan. 9, a 61-year-old man died from the new virus. Cases were increasing by the hundreds. It was spreading outside the country.
Disneyland Shanghai shut down Lunar New Year celebrations were canceled. The fast spread even forced the city of Wuhan — the origin of the virus — to go into lockdown. However, the virus was on the move.
One month into 2020 and the virus was confirmed in Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The WHO declared a global emergency. As the calendar turned to February, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Singapore confirmed cases.
That same month, coronavirus made its way into the United States. Los Angeles confirmed its first cases. On February 5, the US chartered a plane to evacuate US citizens in Wuhan. Three days later, the first US citizen died of the virus in Wuhan.
On Feb. 11, the worldwide death toll topped a thousand. The same day, the WHO named the new virus COVID-19. The next day, 175 people traveling on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship tested positive.
At this point, the coronavirus was all over the news. On Feb. 24, the US Stock Market tanked for the first time. The Dow Jones dropped more than a thousand points. People were panicking about the future.
On Feb. 29, the US announced its first death related to COVID-19. The man was from Washington and in his 50s. On March 6, Vice President Mike Pence announced 21 people on board the Grand Princess off the coast of California tested positive.
On March 7, 100,000 people worldwide were infected with the coronavirus. The next day, the US confirmed it had 500 people sick with the virus.
On March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic — changing the way the world saw the virus.
By mid-march, 126,000 people around the world were infected the with the virus. Around 4,600 had died here in the U.S. The virus was on the move and extreme measures were being taken. Professional sports were suspending seasons, Universal Studios and Disneyland announced plans to shut down for two weeks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced statewide recommendations and executive orders that impacted all counties, including Kern. Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield announced major changes. Classes were being moved online.
Churches across Kern County shut down. Some churches turned to the internet, live-streaming their services or posting messages on YouTube. Local school districts announced they were closing for nearly a month amid concerns.
Then, the news came: Health officials confirmed the coronavirus was in Kern County. Gov. Newsom announced a stay-at-home order on March 19. The next day, an emergency order was issued in Bakersfield.
Less than two weeks later, Kern County lost its first resident to the novel virus, Susie Garcia from Delano. She was one of the first people to contract the virus in Kern. She died two days after receiving her positive test result.
As cases, hospitalizations and deaths increased worldwide, health officials were trying to grasp the basics of COVID-19. For weeks, they told us masks were unnecessary for the general population, but on April 3, health officials reversed course, saying research indicated masks would slow the spread and save lives.
In Kern County daily cases were minimal, but people were getting sick and dying. One month after the first case was confirmed in Kern County, three people had lost their lives. In late April, two local doctors got a lot heat claiming Kern County should reopen immediately.
By the beginning of summer, Kern saw its first true surge of cases and deaths. Hospitals were in trouble.
On the Fourth of July, the county surpassed 100 lives lost. By the end of the month, the death toll doubled, but Kern County saw improvement into the fall. More people were getting tested at mobile sites.
By mid-October, Kern moved into the red, less restrictive tier. By Halloween, cases started to rise once again. It would become the beginning of the biggest and deadliest surge.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths spiked after Thanksgiving. Hundreds were getting infected every day. Our worst day was on December 9 — two weeks after Thanksgiving — when 1,479 people tested positive.
As a result, the week before Christmas became the deadliest week. The trend continued through New Year’s and beyond. December and January would become the deadliest months of the pandemic. More than 400 people died as a result from the holidays.
A way out of the pandemic arrived in Kern County. The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccines were delivered on December 17. The doses first went to frontline healthcare workers. On January 20, the Kern County fairgrounds turned into a mass vaccination site, giving shots to hundreds of eligible people every day.