BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A look across Kern County paints a picture healthcare officials had hoped we’d moved past: hospitals overfilled.

“We are certainly very busy, [Kern Medical] has been impacted as all of our local hospitals have,” chief medical officer Dr. Glenn Goldis said. “We are at capacity.”

In the midst of a surge fueled by the Omicron variant, it’s not just COVID-positive patients taxing the healthcare system. Hospital workers are also falling sick in significant numbers.

“We’ve had over a hundred employees who have been out this week, on any given day,” Goldis said.

With fewer workers handling more shifts, Adventist Health CMO Dr. Ghassan Jamaleddine urges caution, and attention to detail.

“Exhausting our critical care capacity is dangerous,” Jamaleddine said. “I would say right now, because of the staffing strain and tired, yes, we have to be more vigilant.”

To replace staff out sick, hospitals are using familiar methods — traveling nurses and state strike teams. Now, though, the situation is so dire, the California Department of Public Health has turned to more drastic measures, issuing a guideline last week that COVID-positive but asymptomatic healthcare workers may return to work immediately.

It’s guidance that hospitals in Kern are wrestling with.

“Would I allow them to work?” Jamaleddine mused. “In a crisis situation, the answer is yes, but you take precautions.”

As a state healthcare organization, Kern Medical is obligated to follow guidelines from the state. Goldis admits the plan still has question marks, but says Kern Medical would stick to it if need be.

“I think the evidence is a little thin, in terms of guaranteeing anybody’s safety, but I think if you’re following the guidelines while taking the proper precautions, it should be okay,” Goldis said.

The state’s guidance currently remains in effect until February 1st.