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Public Health explains why, how they fell behind on processing COVID-19 test results

COVID-19 Testing Site Sign
Posted at 9:27 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 10:40:27-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The Kern County Public Health Department says once two major testing sites lit up with a four-fold increase in testing and began submitting larger batches of test results to public health, officials here said they simply couldn’t keep up and had to adjust. However, what’s also interesting is that they said this surge is not to blame for the shutdown we can expect to see Friday.

“We had observed a quite a significant increase in testing beginning in July,” Director of Kern County Public Health, Matt Constantine said.

Constantine said once they saw the spike in COVID-19 testing at the Quest and West Pac testing sites in Kern County it placed a major constraint on public health’s ability to process test results and update our numbers efficiently.

“As we observed sort of unexpectedly these large number of tests coming in the staffing that we had established previously was inadequate,” Constantine said.

As a result of the skeleton staff they initially had in place, Constantine said they were unable to meet the demand required and in turn, it led to their prediction that once they attempted to catch back up we would start to see larger daily numbers in cases. However, when initially asked if this sudden spike in cases, partially due to an unforeseen back log in caseload at Kern County Public Health influenced our shift back onto the state’s monitoring list Constantine responded by saying, "So there might have been some influence but certainly going forward there would be also some influence from those higher numbers.”

However, a few minutes later Constantine appeared to walk back this initial statement on our high numbers influencing a shift back onto the monitoring list after a reporter mentioned that local businesses are possibly now suffering since public health couldn’t process the incoming test results fast enough.

“I don’t think it’s correct to align the lab delays with being on the monitoring list…I understand your statement,” Constantine said.

He didn’t say why we shouldn’t align the backlog with why we may be asked to shut back down again tomorrow, but he did say he has since adjusted, retrained, and tripled staffing to meet the demand.

“It took us a day or two to reconfigure and adjust and get state approval but those systems are in place today,” Constantine said.

He said Congressman Kevin McCarthy obtained a commitment from the federal government to contract with a company called E True North that would also establish three new testing cites that can yield faster test results.

"And they come with their own mobile lab and they have indicated that turn around time in the lab should not exceed 48 hours,” Constantine said.

It’s important to note that again today the county hit another record high in new daily positive COVID-19 cases. This now marking day six that the county has been on the state's watch list. Public health said businesses need to prepare to shut back down tomorrow and they plan on making that announcement public as soon as it’s officially passed down by the state.