Starting in December 2019 with the first reports out of Wuhan, China, the COVID-19 pandemic very rapidly began to impact almost every aspect of daily life in Kern County, and in many respects, it continues to do so.
Here’s a look at the last two-plus years with a timeline that charts how the coronavirus’s rapid progression occurred:
Dec. 12, 2019: A number of patients in Wuhan report experiencing shortness of breath and fever.
Dec. 31, 2019: The World Health Organization finds out about multiple cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause in Wuhan.
Jan. 17, 2020: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team is dispatched to Washington state to help with contact-tracing efforts after the first case of the novel coronavirus, provisionally designated by the WHO as 2019-nCoV, is reported in the United States.
Jan. 25, 2020: An Orange County man who had recently been to Wuhan is the first case of the coronavirus found in California. The nation now has three confirmed cases.
Feb. 6, 2020: A Santa Clara resident is the first person to die of causes related to the coronavirus in the United States.
Feb. 11, 2020: The WHO announces its official designations for the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes: SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.
Feb. 27, 2020: The Californian reports 11 people in Kern County are being monitored for the highly contagious coronavirus but they are considered to be at low risk of being carriers, according to local health officials.
March 4, 2020: Gov. Gavin Newsom declares a state of emergency in California following similar declarations by a number of local governments. The move puts anti-price-gouging protections in place.
March 10, 2020: Five Kern County residents are being monitored for COVID-19 while 13 of 18 individuals have successfully moved through the monitoring process, according to county public health spokeswoman Michelle Corson. There’s been no confirmed circulation of the coronavirus locally and no confirmed cases in the county, according to the Kern Public Health Services Department.
March 11, 2020: The World Health Organization declares the fast-spreading outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic.
March 13, 2020: President Donald Trump declares a nationwide emergency.
March 15, 2020: The plans of both public and private schools in Kern County to serve students in the midst of coronavirus concerns are rapidly evolving. The following day, the heads of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools and Kern County Public Health Services Department tell public schools to temporarily close to aid in the fight against the virus.
March 17, 2020: The first patient in Kern County tests positive for the coronavirus, county health officials say, signifying the first instance of the pandemic within county borders. The Bakersfield Police Department announces that then-interim Police Chief Greg Terry is assembling a COVID-19 resource team at the department. The Kern County Sheriff’s Office is evaluating inmates at its Lerdo and Central Receiving facilities for potential early release. Low-level, nonviolent inmates whose ages and medical conditions place them at risk of the virus could be let out early.
March 19, 2020: Newsom issues a shelter-in-place order for California, amid a growing number of deaths (31); the number of cases is at 7,899.
March 27, 2020: Kern County reports eight new coronavirus infections, bringing the total cases in the county to 40. Kern also reports its first death, according to county public health officials. Nearly 1,000 tests for the virus are pending results, according to data from the health department.
March 31, 2020: The county is facing more than 100 cases of COVID-19. The most recent numbers show 101 people in Kern tested positive for the disease, a number that includes three nonresidents, according to the county health department. That number represents a doubling in cases in two days; on March 29, total cases stood at 51.
April 14, 2020: Newsom charts a path to reopening for the state.
May 1, 2020: County public health officials confirm a COVID-19 outbreak at a Bakersfield nursing home that infects 16 residents and 25 staff members. It’s unclear whether any of the 41 living or working at the 184-bed Kingston Healthcare Center, located at 329 Real Road, have required hospitalization or died. The outbreak is the first publicly confirmed in Kern County, where public health officials have released relatively few details about local COVID-19 cases.
May 4, 2020: The county health department begins providing more detailed information on COVID-19 cases, including the ethnic breakdown and sex of those with the virus, and the number of cases in each ZIP code in the county.
May 9, 2020: The nation’s jobless rate hits its highest figure since the Great Depression (14.5 percent), with more than 20.5 million out of work.
June 1, 2020: County officials worry about a coronavirus surge, as the number of reported cases over the last several days increases and crowds of protesters take to the streets in close proximity to one another. While the county health department reported an average of 43 cases per day the week prior, the past two days see Kern’s total increase by 177, more than double the average.
June 17, 2020: In three months since the first COVID-19 case was announced in Kern, 57 people have died and 3,522 cases are confirmed locally. Close to 43,000 tests for the virus have been performed.
June 19, 2020: The day after Newsom announces masks are required in most public spaces, Kern County officials remain in the dark about how such an order would be enforced.
July 7, 2020: Two Bakersfield hospitals temporarily stop offering elective medical procedures in order to remain responsive to more urgent cases, as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise and push local medical centers toward their limits.
July 17, 2020: Newsom announces plans for how schools in California can return to in-person learning. But the requirements mean most K-12 campuses will be distance learning for the upcoming school year.
July 19, 2020: Medical facilities in Kern County are pushed to the limit as more and more residents contract COVID-19. Kern Medical CEO Russell Judd says all local hospitals are reaching maximum capacity and beginning to implement surge plans.
Aug. 21, 2020: As a wave of evictions threatens to sweep over Bakersfield and Kern County, local leaders prepare to devote millions in federal coronavirus relief funds to rental assistance. Local advocates, however, worry the funds may not be enough to prevent many who have lost income amid the pandemic from ending up on the streets.
Sept. 22, 2020: The nation’s death toll surpasses 200,000.
Oct. 2, 2020: Trucks, vans and trailers wait in a long line at CityServe Kern County’s F Street location to load up more than 1,200 boxes that had arrived from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The program distributes millions of meals during the pandemic.
Nov. 18, 2020: State workplace regulators issue one of the largest fines yet for failing to protect employees from COVID-19 on the job for a Bakersfield nursing home where nearly 200 staff and residents were infected with the coronavirus. Kingston Healthcare Center is fined $92,500 as a result of numerous violations detailed in a 23-page citation report issued the previous month by Cal/OSHA, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
Dec. 9, 2020: More than 1,000 new COVID-19 infections are reported by the county health department for the second day in a row, as well as six new deaths, bringing the number of cases in Kern to 47,411 and the total number of deaths to 463.
Jan. 28, 2020: Kern County surpasses 92,000 cases of COVID-19, which means 1 in 10 county residents has tested positive for the virus. That puts Kern among the most impacted counties in the state in terms of the percentage of people infected with the virus, just behind San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
Feb. 22, 2021: Kern County and the Central Valley are to receive larger portions of the COVID-19 vaccine on an ongoing basis, Newsom announces during a stop in Arvin. Moving forward, Kern is expected to receive 78 percent more vaccines than it has been, while the Central Valley as a whole is expected to receive 58 percent more. That equates to 14,850 vaccine doses arriving in Kern by the end of the week.
March 12, 2021: The county health department announces an expansion of the COVID-19 vaccine’s availability to include individuals with certain health conditions and those living or working in environments that put them at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
April 8, 2021: The county health department announces it will begin tracking COVID-19 variants on its online dashboard that monitors the virus’s progression.
June 16, 2021: Newsom stops at In Shape, a fully reopened gym in Bakersfield, to promote “California Roars Back,” the reopening plan, while also advocating for measures to keep Californians healthy, such as offering tickets to Six Flags Magic Mountain for vaccinated residents.
July 1, 2021: As rising levels of a more contagious coronavirus variant cause concern in neighboring counties, only one case of the delta variant is identified in Kern.
Aug. 7, 2021: Kern County hospitals see a dramatic increase in COVID-19 patients over the past month, leading some health officials to worry a third surge may soon overwhelm local resources.
Aug. 13, 2021: Students in Wasco Union Elementary School District have been in class for two weeks; in that time, a dozen students test positive for COVID, and 70 are sent home to quarantine because of a possible exposure under current health guidelines.
Aug. 24, 2021: Local hospital executives worry they might not be able to staff enough beds to meet official projections that COVID-19 cases in Kern County will continue rising through early October. On Sept. 3, hospitalizations exceed the peak of the first wave, with the numbers expected to rise.
Oct. 18, 2021: Local parents protesting Newsom’s student COVID-19 vaccine mandate participate in a statewide walkout by keeping their students out of school.
Nov. 3, 2021: The county health department recommends that all eligible residents get a booster shot to avoid another COVID-19 surge that could surpass the most recent peak that strained local hospitals.
Dec. 5, 2021: The emergence of omicron, a new variant of concern, shines a spotlight on the way that coronavirus cases are sequenced.
Jan. 3, 2022: Kern County Superintendent of Schools spokesman Robert Meszaros confirms that hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 rapid tests are being delivered after the KCSOS receives an expected shipment.
Jan. 21, 2022: The county health department reports 2,351 new coronavirus cases and no new deaths. This number represents the highest single-day total of the pandemic as the omicron surge appears to peak in Kern. Less than a week later, Kern would see another grim milestone: On Jan. 27, the health department announces 17 new COVID deaths, bringing the tally of COVID deaths in Kern County past 2,000 (2,005).
Feb. 17, 2022: About half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, with nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall and many more infections that have never been reported. One influential model uses those factors and others to estimate that 73 percent of Americans are, for now, immune to omicron, the dominant variant, and that could rise to 80 percent by mid-March. California becomes the first state to formally shift to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus with Newsom’s announcement of a plan that emphasizes prevention and quick reaction to outbreaks over mandated masking and business shutdowns.
Feb. 24, 2022: The Biden administration announces plans to significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines to protect against COVID-19 transmission, meaning most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.
March 4, 2022: New York City and Los Angeles intend to lift some of their strictest COVID-19 prevention measures as officials in big cities around the U.S. push for a return to normalcy after two grueling years of the pandemic.
March 7, 2022: The global death toll from COVID-19 eclipses 6 million — underscoring that the pandemic, now entering its third year, is far from over.
March 11, 2022: Newsom’s mask mandate in schools expires, as local school officials and others in the education community express optimism about “moving in the right direction” while also sharing caution amid the ongoing pandemic.
March 15, 2022: Pfizer and its partner BioNTech ask U.S. regulators to authorize an additional booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine for seniors, saying data from Israel suggests older adults would benefit.