The first patient in Kern County has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Kern County health officials said Tuesday morning, signifying the first instance of the worldwide pandemic within county borders.Few details were known or shared about the patient at a press conference held by Kern County Public Health Tuesday morning, except the patient’s status as a visitor to the area.Public Health Director Matt Constantine said the county first became aware of the positive test at 4 a.m. Tuesday morning. An investigation into the individual’s movements and any possible exposure to the public began shortly after the county became aware of the positive test.The patient was described as cooperative and is recuperating at a residence in Kern County in an improved condition. Because the patient resides outside of the county, the case will not be considered as being from Kern County, according to Public Health.Five people who were in close proximity with the individual, described as household contacts, are being monitored for symptoms as they self-isolate through the virus’ incubation period. The unnamed healthcare facility that evaluated the patient is being studied to determine if any staff were exposed while not wearing protective gear.It is unknown if any community exposure occurred.Despite the latest news, Constantine said the risk of COVID-19 spread in Kern County remained low.“This is a time for us all to pull together,” he said. “This is what Kern County does well. We need everybody to do their due diligence, but also to take care of each other, take care of your family members, take care of your neighbors, take care of your coworkers, ensure that we are all in this together.”Up until recently, Kern County had mostly avoided the tumult associated with coronavirus. As other areas of the state, from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, have been hit by pockets of infections, local residents have remained relatively untouched.Throughout California, however, cases continue to rise. As of Monday, the California Department of Public Health reported 472 positive cases and 11 deaths. The Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency reported the county’s third positive case on Monday as well.In the midst of the coronavirus spread statewide, the potential for more positive local cases remains. Kern Public Health said it had received notice that local physicians and healthcare providers had tested 84 individuals, with 36 tests coming back negative and the rest still pending.“We don’t believe Kern County is immune,” Constantine said. “We are lucky to say, at this point, we don’t have any positive Kern County cases. But we’re actively tracking it and will be providing daily updates.”Kern County Public Health Services recommends the following protective measures to COVID-19:Wash hands with soap and water often.Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Follow package instructions for proper disinfecting.Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.Avoid close contact with people who are sick.Stay away from work, school or other people if you become sick.Kern County Public Health continues to work with local health care providers and has plans in place to inform and protect all residents, limit exposures to any new cases if identified, and address concerns as they arise.
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.