In a weekly interview with Tehachapi News, City Manager Greg Garrett stated he felt the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded for Kern County was misleading to residents as many of these deaths occurred inside the Kingston Healthcare Center, a 184-bed skilled-nursing facility located in Bakersfield.
As of Friday morning, the Kern County Public Health Services data dashboard recorded a total of 1,438 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 24 deaths, of which nearly half occurred among the nursing facility's residents.
"It's really unfortunate, and I'm not sure why we were not told that to begin with. Most of our deaths in Kern County have been tied to that (Kingston Healthcare Center). The county is finally recognizing that," Garrett said about information he received at a recent news conference with Kern County Public Health Services.
In addition, Garrett said, the number of confirmed cases was further misleading to local residents as the county encompasses a large area.
Said Garrett, "What happens in metro Bakersfield is not necessarily the same incident model as to what happens in, say, Tehachapi or Ridgecrest. So, that's a good thing that they (Public Health Services) are acknowledging that because I believe that the state will be able to understand that different regions within a very large county will be allowed to, in a meticulous manner, open our economy."
Garrett said he recently learned that Kern County has received $157 million from the state as reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses.
Said Garrett, "The cities are working closely with the county to make sure we understand the rules, and that we receive reimbursement for COVID-19 cost recovery."
According to Garrett, cost recovery can be for government or small businesses and include layoffs, the purchase of cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment, or costs surrounding restarting a business.
Garrett said Tehachapi is working out a framework so that the county and the cities work hand-in-hand "so that we can move forward and so that we can all participate and benefit from the money. We want to get this money out into the private hands and the public hands."
By the end of the week, Garrett said, he hoped the city would have drafted specific guidelines as to what would be allowed, and that the city would be reaching out to the local chamber of commerce and the Economic Development Council.
Said Garrett, "We have already started up some working meetings on how we can start pushing some of this out. We are really excited about that."
To date, Garrett said he is unaware of any local businesses that have gone under due to the pandemic.
"I hope that number is going to be zero. Local businesses did what they were asked, and I thank them for that. We will continue to be working on their behalf to get them up and running sooner rather than later," said Garrett.
As for when exactly the city will begin opening back up, Garrett said, "It is my understanding that they (the Board of Supervisors) have created a task force... but I haven't seen or heard any details on that yet. Every day, the State of California keeps moving the goalpost, and quite frankly, it has become quite chaotic, and it's hard for people to keep up and understand what's being asked of them."