Kern County Medical Community Pleads to Governor Newsom

Press Release
Kern County Administration Office

Dear Governor Newsom,

The Chief Executive Officers and Chief Medical Officers of Kern County’s ten (10) acute care hospitals want to express our appreciation for your leadership and proactive approach to protecting the public health of California and Kern County residents.

The stay at home order established in March was critical in allowing us to understand as much as we could about COVID-19 and the preparedness and containment capacity of our community. This letter serves to inform you that our 10 hospitals and the professionals in our Kern County Health Department are in unanimous agreement that Kern County is ready to accelerate the opening of our businesses and sectors, working within established guidelines.

Our concern, however, is the readiness criteria established by the State in order to demonstrate that Kern County is ready. You have rightfully stood by the assertion that decisions will be made based on science and data. We write to respectfully ask that you consider our collective professional and medical opinion as you contemplate modification of your guidance for counties to begin reopening and Kern County’s readiness.

The medical community and public health professionals in Kern County respectfully request you to consider the two criteria listed below as a far more valid measure of Kern County’s readiness.

We strongly believe that these two measures are better benchmarks for gauging Kern County’s progress toward the six indicators you outlined on April 14, 2020:
•Ability to test, contact trace, isolate, and support the exposed
•Ability to protect those at high risk for COVID-19
•Surge capacity for hospital and health systems
•Therapeutic development to meet the demand
•Ability of businesses, schools, and childcare facilities to support physical distancing
•Determination of when to re-institute measures like Stay at Horne

Readiness criteria #1
In order for Kern County to meet the criteria of “no more than I COVID-19 case per l 0,000 residents in the past 14 days,” Kern County cannot exceed 90 positive tests during that 14-day period.

This measure conflicts with another readiness criteria, which is to greatly expand testing. Kern County has rapidly been increasing community-based testing, and as testing is expanded, the number of positive tests are likely to increase in the immediate future.

Many of the positive cases detected in the community will be mild or asymptomatic and will not require medical attention. In fact, 96 percent those who have tested positive in our community over the last two months have either fully recovered or are recovering at home, treating symptoms on their own.

We respectfully request your consideration for the following measure of severe illness in lieu of a simple infection rate as a more accurate depiction of Kem County’s readiness to respond to COVID-19:
•COVID-19 hospitalization rate per l 0,000 residents or per total number of positive cases

Readiness Criteria #2
Kern County’s numbers over the previous 14 days have been skewed due to one specific Skilled Nursing Facility. Our hospitals are sensitive to the fact that staff of these facilities are members of our community and have the capacity to spread COVID-19.

However, we believe our robust capacity to contain this “hot spot” through contact tracing, community surveillance and our ability to support the isolation/quarantine of individuals sufficiently mitigates the potential for community spread. We respectfully ask you to consider a request to distinguish Kern County’s overall deaths due to COVID-19 from the deaths among patients residing at Skilled Nursing Facilities.

We have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one and have a firm understanding of the data-driven metrics that will provide Kern County a safe path to begin re-­opening. As medical and public health professionals, we again want to thank you for your unwavering support, leadership and cooperation during this public health emergency.

In lieu of signatures, those listed below are in full endorsement of these requests.

-Ryan J. Alsop, Chief Administrative Officer- Kern County

-Matt Constantine, Director- Kern County Department of Public Heath

-Kristopher Lyon, MD – Kern County Public Health Officer

-Kim Hernandez, Lead Epidemiologist – Kern County Department of Public Heath

-Russell Judd, Chief Executive Officer- Kern County Hospital Authority

-Glenn Goldis, Kenneth Keller, President and CEO – Dignity Health, Bakersfield Memorial Hospital

-Bruce Peters, President and CEO – Dignity Health, Mercy Hospitals

-Hemmel Kothary, MD, Chief Medical Officer – Dignity Health, Mercy Hospital, Southwest Bakersfield and Bakersfield Memorial Hospital MD, Chief Medical Officer- Kern County Hospital Authority

-Joseph Smith, MD, Chief Medical Officer – Dignity Health, Mercy Hospital, Downtown Bakersfield

-Sharlet Briggs, President and CEO – Adventist Health Bakersfield Medical Center

-Jeff Lingerfelt, President -Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley Medical Center

-Ronald Reynoso, MD, Chief Medical Officer – Adventist Health Bakersfield and Tehachapi Valley Medical Centers

-David Butler, President -Adventist Health Delano Medical Center

-Adalberto Reteria, MD, Chief Medical Officer-Adventist Health Delano Medical Center

-J.A. Suver, Chief Executive Officer-Ridgecrest Regional Hospital

-Susan Reynolds, MD, Chief Medical Officer-Ridgecrest Regional Hospital

-Timothy E. McGlew, Chief Executive Officer-Kem Valley Healthcare District

-Amandeep Basra, Chief Executive Officer- Good Samaritan Hospital

-Matab Singh, MD, Chief Medical Officer-Good Samaritan Hospital

-Harjeet Brar, MD – Good Samaritan Hospital

-Michelle Oxford, Chief Executive Officer- Bakersfield Heart Hospital

-Brij Bhambi, MD, Chief Medical Officer- Bakersfield Heart Hospital

-Bill Baker, MD, Chief Medical Officer- Centric Health

-Ravi Patel, MD, Chief Executive Officer-Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center

-Alan Cartmel, MD, Chief Medical Officer-Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center

-Martha Samora, Chief Executive Officer – Encompass Health and Rehabilitation Hospital of Bakersfield

-Amirpasha Ehsan, MD, Medical Director – Encompass Health and Rehabilitation Hospital of Bakersfield