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Kern’s COVID-19 numbers are up, but mask enforcement still in state’s hands

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — At least 10 California counties are actively enforcing the governor’s mid-June order to wear face masks in public. Kern County is not one of them.

And local COVID-19 cases are increasing. What’s being done about it?

It was nearly a month ago that Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a mandate requiring all Californians to wear masks in most public settings.

If you’ve been inside a Kern County store recently, you know how that’s going. Kern County Public
Health has taken a largely hands off approach to enforcement, opting instead for an educate-and-encourage approach.

Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine says that’s because he views this as a state enforcement issue. Newsom has formed a multi-agency strike team to go after violators, and individual agencies are also active in enforcement.

“It’s important to recognize the governor did this,” Constantine said. “The governor put out not only his order mandating masks, with the help of the state health officer, but also then put out some strong guidance documents. So this is required now. There’s some been some interest on how best to educate and bring awareness to the importance (of masks). I’m assuming the state will play a role in that. But that has been asked of our community by the state now.”

For now, several state agencies are playing the heavies, sending teams of enforcement officers into counties throughout the state. Among them is Alcohol Beverage Control, which visited 81 Kern County bars and restaurants over the long Fourth of July weekend and issued two citations. ABC did not identify those bars or give details on their fines.

Another agency conducting checks is the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration — Cal-OSHA — which supervises the health and welfare of workers. In this case, whether they’re taking proper precautions against COVID-19. A Cal-OSHA spokeswoman said the agency made an even 100 compliance assistance site visits in Kern over the same weekend. Cal-OSHA did not respond to questions about the number and nature of any citations that may have been issued.

With COVID-19 numbers increasing throughout the state, alarming so in many cities, what might Kern County Public Health be asked to do? Constantine awaits word.

“I emailed and asked if we could talk more specifically about how you set your priorities,” Constantine said, “and where you’re going to put this (in effect) and.is there some ability for the county or the communities to provide input. So we’re hopeful to have some discussion.”

Don’t be looking for the Sheriff’s mask patrol to be showing up at the door of your business anytime soon. But people from appropriate state agencies? That’s another matter.

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