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Supervisors ratify Kern County public health emergency

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – In what is believed to be a first, the Kern County Board of Supervisors met in an empty board chamber Tuesday, where they addressed the county’s efforts to combat COVID-19.

While members of the public were not allowed to be present physically at the meeting, top county department heads and hospital executives like Russell Judd of Kern Medical were on hand. He said local hospitals are preparing for possible surges of patients.

“The most limited resource is ICU beds,” he told the board. “So each of us has identified a way to grow ICU beds. Most of that will happen in post-anesthesia care units where we care for patients of this significance disease.”

He also said “ventilators have been acquired,” noting Kern’s 10 hospitals have a total of 235 ventilators at this time — a figure he says is satisfactory for now. “Beds are being acquired. IV pulls, IV pumps, all the necessary elements to handle this surge of patients,” he continued.

At the meeting, members of the board unanimously ratified a county public health emergency. The deceleration allows the county to issue orders to help control the disease, develop and implement plans to ensure there is access to medications and vaccinations, and access resources from the state and federal government.

Matthew Constantine, Kern County Public Health director, said the health department has received more than 100 resource requests from Kern County entities asking for personal protective equipment.

Thus far, county health officials have issued more than 100,000 N-95 masks, more than 87,000 isolation masks, more than 13,000 gowns, roughly 10,000 bottles of hand sanitizers, 2,000 goggles, and “hundreds of boxes of gloves,” Constantine said.

“It is our intent to fill every request that we have.”

But he warned county health resources may not be around much longer.

“It is our estimation that we have enough to last two weeks. Beyond that, we exhaust our supplies locally.”

Constantine said he’s turned to the state for help with mixed results.

“We have six resource requests that we’ve sent to the state asking for more supplies. We received a very small order yesterday. It is not planned out well. We don’t know when orders come and how much they’re shipping until it arrives,” he stated.

He also said the county is preparing an alternative care sight, or ACS. It would be designed to house 250 – 1,000 symptomatic suspected COVID-19, and those who are COVID-19 positive. Such a site would only be used in the event hospitals are unable to provide services due to overcapacity beyond 140 percent.

It’s unclear where that site would be located.

Meantime, every single department head presented at the meeting. In essence, each said the vast majority of county workers are working remotely. Furthermore, as it pertains to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, there are no known people in custody who have contracted the virus, according to Undersheriff Doug Jauch.

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