Kings County Supervisors vote 4-0 to allow Kings County businesses to open

By Ed Martin, Editor
Kings County Supervisors vote 4-0 to allow Kings County businesses  to open
Gary Feinstein/

A letter, attesting to Kings County’s “unique characteristics” in responding locally to COVID-19, is on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s public health director. At the same time, during Friday’s special Kings County Board of Supervisors gathering, supervisors voted 4-0 to open up businesses in Kings County.

Supervisor Richard Fagundes was absent.

The vote comes with a bit of caution. Supervisors suggested that businesses must do everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe, including practicing social distancing, washing hands, avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth, staying in your home as much as possible, wearing a face mask or covering, limiting close contact, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Kings County, until Friday night, seemed to meet most of the standards required by the governor's Roadmap to Recovery that lists four stages. Stage 2 gradually reopens retail (curbside only), childcare, manufacturing, and logistics, relaxes retail restrictions, and adapts and reopens schools, offices, and limited hospitality personal services.

Letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Dept. of Public Health

Stage 3 of the plan opens higher-risk workplaces like movie theaters, churches, and more personal and hospitality services. Stage 4 is the state's end of stay home order, reopening areas of highest risk, like concerts, sports, conventions.

Kings County is currently in Stage 2 of Gov. Newsom's recovery plan. Kings County can gradually allow greater freedoms if the communities in question show progress in adhering to the state's guidelines.

Kings County's supervisors, in their letter to the state, say they have met most of the criteria and are suggesting that they are allowed to expand their foray into Stage 2.

Kings County District 1 Supervisor Joe Neves, who represents Stratford and Lemoore, confirmed that the letter was sent to the state. "We want to make sure we do the absolute right things, so we're trying to get clarification and try to make sure that we don't give businesses the wrong information. That would be the worst thing to do is to get an inventory and staff back, and then all of a sudden have to shut down again," he said.

"We tried to use the Lowes, Home Depot, Costco, Walmart model, and if you can buy it in Walmart and you can meet all the requirements of Walmart, then why aren't you open?"

Kings County Department of Public Health officials, in the letter, stated that local businesses had done a credible job of adhering to the state's guidelines.

"Thanks to our residents and businesses who have voluntarily adhered to the state restrictions and guidance for two months, Kings County has had only 325 confirmed cases as of May 13. Of the 325 cases, 74 have recovered, four were hospitalized, two of those hospitalized were in the ICU, and we have had one death to date," stated the county's message, sent to the governor and the California Department of Public Health.

However, Friday night, just hours after the vote to reopen Kings County, the Kings County Department of Public Health announced only its second fatality, confirming the COVID-19 death of a 65 -year-old individual.

Total COVID-19 cases in Kings County, as of Friday night, were 372. However, 113 cases have fully recovered.

"Equally important," continued the letter, "is that Kings County stands ready to address the identification of additional cases, the quarantining, isolation and monitoring of those cases, and the healthcare needs of anyone afflicted, because the local healthcare system is currently underutilized. While the county also has adequate resources currently to perform contact tracing associated with new confirmed cases, supplementing those resources is something the State could assist with if such a need arose."

Kings County currently has 17 staff members trained to implement contact tracing, and county officials can expand their capacity by 14 additional staffers with additional training.

County officials also cited their ability to test for COVID-19: "Given Kings County's population of 153,000 residents, it will not take us long to complete testing of a majority of our residents, certainly not as long as it will take larger counties with denser populations."

Furthermore, Kings County's only major hospital, Adventist Health,  is relatively underutilized when it comes to coronavirus patients. The local hospital has 73 regular hospital beds, 12 ICU beds, and 40 available ventilators ready to serve the community if and when the pandemic challenges the county's resources.

"Our county and its residents are suffering, and we simply cannot sustain a shutdown of so many businesses and jobs any longer," supervisors and county health officials stated in their letter. On that note, the board members indicated the county would continue to adhere to public health measures designed to mitigate the coronavirus:

  • Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching eyes, hose, and mouth with unclean hands
  • Stay in your home as much as possible. The only exceptions should be for getting food and/or necessary household supplies, medications, and medical treatments.
  • Wear a facemask or covering, and practice social distancing of a least six feet if it is necessary to leave you home
  • Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils with people who are sick
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow

Overall, Neves says Kings County residents are adhering to the state's pandemic guidelines. "People, I think, have done a real good job. Eighty-five percent of them do not have it (COVID-19). The 15 percent that does have it, many of those are directly related to close contact, and less than 100 … are community spread," he said.

"I realize that it's a big deal across the nation and the world, but it seems like in Kings County – and I don't want to say that it's under control because it can bloom at any time – I think we have a pretty good handle on it."


Kings County Supervisors vote 4-0 to allow Kings County businesses  to open

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