Kern County Hospitals mandated to offer COVID-19 testing weekly to employees

Posted at 5:43 AM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 10:36:22-05

Dignity Health Bakersfield CEO Ken Keller said the California Department of public health let hospitals know the day before Thanksgiving that they had until this last Monday to create a plan to be able to test employees on a weekly basis. Hospital officials say the rollout could start as early as this week.

"The initial decree was to provide the action plan as to how that would get accomplished,” Keller said. “The plan was due on Dec. 14 with the stated intent to have the actual testing available very shortly thereafter."

As Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine makes its way to Kern County, set to be distributed to hospitals this week, frontline healthcare workers still need to make sure they're not testing positive for the Coronavirus.

Terri Church, The Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Hospital said weekly testing of employees should be starting Monday.

"[The test] will be voluntary and will not be required. If they have not been vaccinated yet, we will be offering that testing,” Church said. “With the surge we may need all hands on deck in the hospital."

Mercy hospital officials say its rollout should begin by the end of this week. Keller said hospitals will be required to offer weekly testing to employees, but there is a caveat.

"We can’t force the employees who don’t want to,” Keller said. “If an employee gets vaccinated they no longer need to get tested."

Dr. Hemmal Kothary with Dignity Health Bakersfield says anyone who has received the vaccine will not need to take a test because antibodies in the vaccine will provide false positives.

You can continue to follow our pandemic coverage here.