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Kern County Launches COVID-19 Testing Response Team to Support State with Skilled Nursing Facilities

Post Date:05/13/2020 8:11 AM

Bakersfield, Calif., (Wednesday May 13, 2020) – This week Kern County is launching a COVID-19 testing response team to increase support of state agencies and to protect vulnerable skilled nursing facility residents and staff from the spread of COVID-19.  In early May, Kern Public Health was notified of a local skilled nursing facility that was experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak and insufficient staffing levels. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has regulatory oversight for all skilled nursing facilities in the state. 

On Monday May 11, CDPH required all skilled nursing facilities to develop and implement a plan to test residents and staff for COVID-19 within 21 days.  Due to the higher risk of more severe illness with the vulnerable residents, we cannot afford to wait another 3 weeks and the County is implementing a program immediately. 

“What matters most is that these are our residents, our family members and our most vulnerable population. We’re doing everything in our power to make sure all of our staff in skilled nursing facilities and their residents are safe,” said Kern Public Health Director Matt Constantine. Starting this Friday, Kern County will deploy a testing response team dedicated to conducting COVID-19 testing on all staff at local skilled nursing facilities. The response team will test staff at facilities that cannot manage to conduct their own testing. This will ensure all of the nearly 2,000 employees in Kern County’s 19 skilled nursing facilities are tested every two weeks, per the recommendation of CDPH. Kern County is committed to working with these organizations to control COVID-19 outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities to protect residents and staff. 

In early May 2020, Kern County Public Health was notified by a skilled nursing facility that they had inadequate staffing to provide for the care of their residents due to a COVID-19 outbreak and they asked for immediate support.  Kern County successfully coordinated the deployment of a California Medical Assistance Team that now includes more than 35 medical staff to keep the facility operational and its residents safe. “We are indebted to this team for their response. These individuals left their homes and their families to care for our families,” said Constantine. 

In addition to the testing response team and staffing support, Kern County has supplied personal protective equipment and onsite training to all skilled nursing facilities.  The County has also hosted daily calls with the skilled nursing facilities to assess their current conditions, staffing levels, critical needs and confirmation of accurate and timely reporting to the state. 

Ultimately, oversight of skilled nursing facilities is a state responsibility; however, the County’s immediate priority is protecting the health and safety of Kern County residents and to prevent further outbreaks. Kern County is actively engaging with the Governor’s office to address the negative impact outbreaks in State regulated skilled nursing facilities could have on Kern County’s ability to move more quickly through Stage 2 of the Governor’s Resilience Roadmap to lift components of the Governor’s Stay-At-Home order. 

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