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Kern County officials express frustration over state's response to COVID-19 at skilled nursing facilities

Matt Constantine and Ryan Alsop
Posted at 11:37 AM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 15:48:35-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Kern County Public Health Services held a COVID-19 briefing Thursday, providing an update on the situation at the Kingston Healthcare Center, as well as other skilled nursing facilities in the county.

As of Wednesday, 54 workers and 80 residents had tested positive with COVID-19, with 18 residents losing their lives. At Valley Convalescent Hospital it was reported that 19 workers and 40 residents tested positive, with 4 residents losing their lives. There was an additional death previously reported at The Orchard Post Acute Care. Of the deaths related to COVID-19 in Kern County, 23 are from skilled nursing facilities.

Director of Public Health Services Matt Constantine expressed frustration with the state's ability to provide reliable information on California's skilled nursing facilities: "We are a little frustrated as we are receiving conflicting information from the state and Kingston itself on the number of impacted individuals."

Director of Public Health Services Matt Constantine expresses frustration with state's

Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop also expressed frustration.

"In the early days of this pandemic I would have liked to have seen the state, knowing that these SNFs had been hotspots in other areas - we had the situation in Washington and other states where we were shown that these were potential hotspots - that COVID once in these facilities spreads rapidly, lots of death, lots of positive cases, lots of hospitalizations," said Alsop. "I would have liked to have seen the state of California deploy more resources, put an army of people throughout the state in the earlier days of this pandemic. Put a General Patton into each one of these facilities throughout the state to make sure these facilities were doing the appropriate distancing, putting the appropriate protocols in place to keep these patients safe. That they had the appropriate PPE. That they had the appropriate hygiene controls and monitoring and the testing was being done. That should have been done in the early days of this pandemic and I am frustrated by that."

Kern County CAO Ryan Alsop: Expresses frustration over state's response to skilled nursing facilities

The county has plans to test employees at skilled nursing facilities to mitigate and prevent more employees from becoming ill. Upwards of 450 employees will be tested.

In addition, according to the Associated Press, the state’s Department of Public Health issued a letter saying skilled nursing facilities should draft testing plans for all residents in settings without cases and residents who have been exposed to the virus. It also calls for testing of residents admitted from hospitals and says those who test negative should be quarantined for 14 days and then retested. The letter comes as the state’s 1,200 skilled nursing facilities have struggled with the virus.

According to Alsop, nearly 90% of tests are negative, with about 8% tested positive. He said that 96% of those that have tested positive have recovered or are currently recovering.

However, Alsop emphasized that COVID-19 was not going away any time soon.

"COVID-19 is in our community and it is not going away. Not a virus that will be eradicated next month or the month after. It will be in our community for many months ahead."

Kern County CAO Ryan Alsop: COVID-19 is not going away