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Coronavirus is mostly spreading through family and friend gatherings

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — New data shows that in Kern County, recent coronavirus cases are spreading mostly among family and friends, often in private settings.

As the number of COVID cases continues to rise, health departments can monitor only what happens publicly, like telling businesses how to operate and telling people to wear masks outside. However, what they can’t see or control is what happens in private homes, which may be the bigger problem.

“We’ve had many conversations with the California Department of Public Health on gatherings. Their guidance remains, they are recommending there be no gatherings outside of those that reside within the same household,” said Kern Public Health Assistant Director, Brynn Carrigan.

When businesses first started reopening their doors, people started opening their social circles again, despite Public Health’s warning. Now as more businesses, like gyms and salons, shut down, many wonder if that’s actually where COVID is spreading the most. According to Kern Public Health contact tracing data, private family and friend gatherings, like backyard barbecues or birthday parties, are actually the leading cause of spread.

“It’s kind of weird wearing a mask around your friends, so sometimes better not to visit them,” said Lamont resident, Adriana Prado.

“I get it’s so hard because I want to see my friends too, but I think it’s just about empathy. You have to know that what you do has consequences,” added Bakersfield resident Sharan Mangat.

This rule applies to immediate family too: moms, dads, grandparents, siblings. If you don’t live in the same house, you’re recommended not to gather, at least not without masks or social distancing.

“It’s kind of odd not to be able to hug your family members. People are still gonna do it, unfortunately, and we can try and discourage it, but it’s a funny world we live in right now,” said Dr. Hemmal Kothary, Chief Medical Officer at Dignity Health.

While it might feel weird to not hug your family, or to wear masks at your parents’ home, experts say that is the key to slowing the spread.

Dr. Kothary added, “once you see the curve start to go down, I think that’s when you can comfortably start relaxing. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, unfortunately.”

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