U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams visited Kern County on Monday for a roundtable with local industry leaders and business owners to discuss COVID-19. Amidst messages of hope and progress, Adams delivered a caution about reopening too early and doubled down on mask wearing.
During a press event after the roundtable, the Surgeon General shared his concerns about the public health and mental health concerns related to the virus and the vulnerability of communities of color to the disease, as well as the need to reopen the economy.
However, Adams, a physician and vice admiral appointed to his position by President Donald Trump, said reopening is ultimately a matter of personal responsibility. “If you don’t wear a mask, then you could help promote disease spread,” he said. “You could be the reason why our schools aren’t open, you could be the reason why our beauty salons aren’t open, you could be the reason why our gyms aren’t open, and you could be slowing us down.”
Although Adams expressed optimism that the U.S. will have a vaccine by late 2020 or early 2021, he also pointed out that, with the public’s cooperation, it’s possible to turn case rates around quickly before then. “Arizona went from worst in the nation to one of the best in the nation,” he said. “New York City’s had a positivity rate under one percent for several weeks and they were the worst in the world. And they’ve done it without a vaccine.”
Adams also praised Kern County’s leadership and its partnership with the community in fighting the virus.
Joining the dignitary at the podium were County Supervisors Mike Maggard and Zack Scrivner, who echoed Adams’ optimism in vaccine development and encouraged members of the public to not let their guard down. “I have 4 kids: eighth grade, sixth grade, third grade, first grade, they’re learning at home right now. I would love to see my kids get back to school,” said Scrivner, “but it’s going to be incumbent upon all of us to find a way to make that happen.”
Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh also spoke to the press to promote the “Three Ws”: wash your hands, wear a mask, and watch your distance. “We want to see schools open, we want to see our restaurants open, we want to see houses of worship open, but it is up to us together to make that happen,” she said.
In the last week, Kern County has reported an average of 79 new cases per day, a rate that has fallen steadily from a record high of 1,633 new cases on July 24. Of the 30,916 county residents who have tested positive for the virus, 333 have died.