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County issues order requiring hospitals, clinics to step up COVID-19 testing

Health leaders: Local hospitals are not performing the large number of tests needed to keep virus under control

Large health systems in Santa Clara County, such as Stanford Health Care, will need to provide COVID-19 tests to high-risk groups under a June 10 county order. Weekly file photo by Veronica Weber.

Citing a continual lag in COVID-19 testing by hospitals, Santa Clara County issued a new order on Wednesday requiring hospitals and clinics to test at least three categories of people.

Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody's June 10 health order requires all large health care systems in Santa Clara County to offer COVID-19 testing to patients within their systems who have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to COVID-19, or who need to be tested frequently because they are at higher risk of exposure such as being a health care worker or grocery store worker.

"Just as we expect all health care providers to test their patients for other communicable diseases and conditions that put their health at risk, healthcare providers need to test their patients for COVID-19," Cody said in a statement. "Many healthcare providers have already stepped up to meet this expectation, and we are grateful for their partnership as we all work to reduce severe illness and death from COVID-19."

Well over 1 million people in the county are covered by the large health care systems, but the percentage of those people who have been tested by hospitals and clinics remains small, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing program officer.

Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center and its clinics have borne the majority of the testing, Fenstersheib said at a press conference. Many large health care systems have already made testing available to these patients, but all large health care systems in the county need to provide this level of care.

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The order focuses on patients who are of highest risk, although Fenstersheib said during a conference call with reporters that all patients should ideally be tested.

Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, head of the Santa Clara County's COVID-19 testing program, speaks at a June 10 press conference on a new health order. Screenshot obtained via Santa Clara County Public Health Department Facebook page.

The order includes all acute care hospitals, and all clinics and urgent care facilities operated by organizations that run an acute care hospital in the county or elsewhere. Clinics and hospitals included are those operated by the county's Health and Hospital System, El Camino Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Regional Medical Center and Stanford Health Care. Several are already offering testing to everyone in these groups, but among those lagging are Kaiser Permanente, Stanford Health Care, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Regional Medical Center, Fenstersheib said.

Kaiser has been doing about 285 tests per day over the past three weeks, he said.

Supply shortages have hampered testing for some hospitals, but most of those issues are now being addressed, according to county leaders. Health care providers who are experiencing shortages of testing supplies can now obtain help from the California Coronavirus Testing Task Force. The local order follows action by the state and federal governments to require health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 testing for their members.

"If Valley Medical Center can do it and find reagents, any of these other hospitals should be able to find it or with the help of the state," County Executive Jeff Smith said during Wednesday's press briefing.

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Smith said that while a large percentage of the population is insured, the downside is that their access to testing is determined by somebody else rather than the county, which currently offers more than 46 sites where residents can receive free COVID-19 tests. In the past seven days, between 850 and 3,500 tests have been administered per day in the county, with an average of 2,354 tests per day. This is 120 tests per 100,000 residents. The county on its own can't get to the higher numbers it needs — eventually 15,000 tests per day — without the help of the other hospitals and clinics outside of the public system, Fenstersheib said.

"We can't get to those numbers when all of those health care systems are not stepping up and doing their share," he said.

Officials are particularly concerned as the economy opens up and recent large protest gatherings potentially exposed people to the virus.

"Without the participation of all health care providers in ensuring access to testing for those who need it most, we will not be able to protect the public from communicable diseases like COVID-19," Fenstersheib, said. "As we continue to reopen activity in the community, ensuring everyone has access to testing will be critical to keep the community safe."

In a written statement, Stanford Health Care disputed a claim that it isn't doing its share of testing. The hospital's testing data, which can be found here, shows that more than 60,000 people have been tested at all of its sites, including outside of Santa Clara County, and at least 11,000 of its workers are part of that number.

"The fact is that Stanford has been proactive on COVID-19 since the beginning, March 4," according to the statement. "Our CEO David Entwistle has spoken with both state and county medical directors and received compliments on our COVID-19 testing."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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County issues order requiring hospitals, clinics to step up COVID-19 testing

Health leaders: Local hospitals are not performing the large number of tests needed to keep virus under control

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 10, 2020, 3:15 pm
Updated: Thu, Jun 11, 2020, 5:34 pm

Citing a continual lag in COVID-19 testing by hospitals, Santa Clara County issued a new order on Wednesday requiring hospitals and clinics to test at least three categories of people.

Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody's June 10 health order requires all large health care systems in Santa Clara County to offer COVID-19 testing to patients within their systems who have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to COVID-19, or who need to be tested frequently because they are at higher risk of exposure such as being a health care worker or grocery store worker.

"Just as we expect all health care providers to test their patients for other communicable diseases and conditions that put their health at risk, healthcare providers need to test their patients for COVID-19," Cody said in a statement. "Many healthcare providers have already stepped up to meet this expectation, and we are grateful for their partnership as we all work to reduce severe illness and death from COVID-19."

Well over 1 million people in the county are covered by the large health care systems, but the percentage of those people who have been tested by hospitals and clinics remains small, said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing program officer.

Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center and its clinics have borne the majority of the testing, Fenstersheib said at a press conference. Many large health care systems have already made testing available to these patients, but all large health care systems in the county need to provide this level of care.

The order focuses on patients who are of highest risk, although Fenstersheib said during a conference call with reporters that all patients should ideally be tested.

The order includes all acute care hospitals, and all clinics and urgent care facilities operated by organizations that run an acute care hospital in the county or elsewhere. Clinics and hospitals included are those operated by the county's Health and Hospital System, El Camino Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Regional Medical Center and Stanford Health Care. Several are already offering testing to everyone in these groups, but among those lagging are Kaiser Permanente, Stanford Health Care, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Regional Medical Center, Fenstersheib said.

Kaiser has been doing about 285 tests per day over the past three weeks, he said.

Supply shortages have hampered testing for some hospitals, but most of those issues are now being addressed, according to county leaders. Health care providers who are experiencing shortages of testing supplies can now obtain help from the California Coronavirus Testing Task Force. The local order follows action by the state and federal governments to require health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 testing for their members.

"If Valley Medical Center can do it and find reagents, any of these other hospitals should be able to find it or with the help of the state," County Executive Jeff Smith said during Wednesday's press briefing.

Smith said that while a large percentage of the population is insured, the downside is that their access to testing is determined by somebody else rather than the county, which currently offers more than 46 sites where residents can receive free COVID-19 tests. In the past seven days, between 850 and 3,500 tests have been administered per day in the county, with an average of 2,354 tests per day. This is 120 tests per 100,000 residents. The county on its own can't get to the higher numbers it needs — eventually 15,000 tests per day — without the help of the other hospitals and clinics outside of the public system, Fenstersheib said.

"We can't get to those numbers when all of those health care systems are not stepping up and doing their share," he said.

Officials are particularly concerned as the economy opens up and recent large protest gatherings potentially exposed people to the virus.

"Without the participation of all health care providers in ensuring access to testing for those who need it most, we will not be able to protect the public from communicable diseases like COVID-19," Fenstersheib, said. "As we continue to reopen activity in the community, ensuring everyone has access to testing will be critical to keep the community safe."

In a written statement, Stanford Health Care disputed a claim that it isn't doing its share of testing. The hospital's testing data, which can be found here, shows that more than 60,000 people have been tested at all of its sites, including outside of Santa Clara County, and at least 11,000 of its workers are part of that number.

"The fact is that Stanford has been proactive on COVID-19 since the beginning, March 4," according to the statement. "Our CEO David Entwistle has spoken with both state and county medical directors and received compliments on our COVID-19 testing."

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Vecina
Ventura
on Jun 10, 2020 at 6:41 pm
Vecina, Ventura
on Jun 10, 2020 at 6:41 pm
12 people like this

We called PAMF to schedule a COVID test after participating in the protest last Saturday but they said no unless we had symptoms. Looks like the only options are in San Jose and appointments aren't available until June 22!

I hope we get testing in Northern Santa Clara County soon.


uhh
Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 6:52 pm
uhh, Crescent Park
on Jun 10, 2020 at 6:52 pm
13 people like this

PAMF is a freaking joke when it comes to administration. Wonderful doctors and staff, however. They are a huge entity...so poorly managed that their cuts have cost each and every department significantly. Try and get a mental health intake. Call the number 321-4121. You will laugh out loud. Covid testing? Unnecessary unless you present as ill? That level of foolishness will cost the community dearly. Why can't we be as smart as South Korea?


John
Professorville
on Jun 10, 2020 at 7:47 pm
John, Professorville
on Jun 10, 2020 at 7:47 pm
9 people like this

Yet another perplexing order, again 3 months too late, from Dr. Cody. Testing symptomatic patients is a waste of time considering that asymptomatic spread is a big part of the problem.

PS: What ever happened to that army of volunteer contact tracers that was going to protect us all?


resident
Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2020 at 8:30 pm
resident, Downtown North
on Jun 10, 2020 at 8:30 pm
23 people like this

In addition to the 3 categories mentioned in this article, what about people in high risk groups like senior citizens or people that live with senior citizens?


Jon Klein
Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 10:45 am
Jon Klein, Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 10:45 am
5 people like this

Santa Clara county's free testing site locator can be found here:
Web Link

I agree with UHH's comments about PAMF and their messed up response to Covid. They can't even organize their parking lot.


Daniel Lilienstein
Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Daniel Lilienstein, Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 12:26 pm
17 people like this

Actually the parking lot is pretty well organized. But I tried to get a test and got the runaround. Why isn’t Santa Clara county enforcing their order? I can’t seem to get tested. If they are stepping up the testing it is not apparent. This should be easy...


Cheryl Lilienstein
Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 1:44 pm
Cheryl Lilienstein, Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 1:44 pm
11 people like this

Who can enforce Health Department orders? Sutter Health (PAMF) claims it's following CDC orders, yet is out of compliance with our Health Department orders. According to the June 10 order: Web Link
All health providers will provide COVID-19 tests to (among others with symptoms and risk factors)
" (c) All persons, with or without COVID-19 Symptoms, who are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 by virtue of (1) working in High-Risk Settings, as defined in Section 7; (2) frequently or routinely traveling by mass transit; or (3) attending a mass gathering of 100 or more individuals in the 14 days prior to presenting for testing. "

When I tried to get a test, the Sutter Health screener said I had to have symptoms to get a test. Yet, I was at a protest with more than 100 people and I told her that. The person on the line then repeatedly asked if I was exposed to someone I knew had COVID. Talk about roadblocks...Must one KNOW and if so HOW, when it's so hard to get a test?

Here's the bottom line: Is there a legal obligation for health providers to comply with health department orders? And if not, why.


Cheryl Lilienstein
Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Cheryl Lilienstein, Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2020 at 2:14 pm
3 people like this

to Jon Klein: try using the map and calling the sites. VA hospital: only vets. Stanford, only Stanford. MV Hospital, only patients. I COULD go to Berger Road for the mobile unit...maybe I'll do that, but there's nothing in the north of the county as far as I can tell.


Robyn
another community
on Jun 11, 2020 at 2:18 pm
Robyn, another community
on Jun 11, 2020 at 2:18 pm
Like this comment

Our property tax dollars and insurance pay these hospitals. They have received money from the federal government. Why are they refusing to care for us? Shame on them.


Christina Kenrick
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2020 at 3:15 pm
Christina Kenrick, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2020 at 3:15 pm
3 people like this

According to a City of Palo Alto ad on Palo Alto Online there will be free covid testing at City Hall next Tuesday June 16th and Friday the 19th between 10 and 4. No doctor or insurance note required. Walk-in, no appointment needed. The ad refers people to cityofpaloalto.org/testing but that is harder to understand


PAMF
Midtown
on Jun 11, 2020 at 5:24 pm
PAMF, Midtown
on Jun 11, 2020 at 5:24 pm
1 person likes this

I agree with the PAMF comments. I was told on the phone that I could get a test (coughing after the protests Saturday) at the Palo Alto location. Got there, had to phone was told no - only if I was scheduled for surgery. I was told that the San Carlos location has no appointment testing. I went there and got through in 30 minutes and results back the next day. You really need to argue your way in and be exhibiting some symptoms.


Midtown Local
Midtown
on Jun 11, 2020 at 8:40 pm
Midtown Local, Midtown
on Jun 11, 2020 at 8:40 pm
3 people like this

Does anybody know what kind of tests these places do, especially the one at City Hall that Christina K mentions above? If they're the "uncomfortable" poke-your-brain kind, I'll nope out despite having been at Saturday's protest (in the senior zone at the back). If they're the short swab that I understand some places in San Mateo County are using, or the saliva test, I'm happy to swing by City Hall.


Christina Kenrick
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2020 at 10:39 am
Christina Kenrick, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2020 at 10:39 am
2 people like this

Correction: The free covid tests are being offered at City Hall Tuesday June 16 THROUGH Friday the 19th. 10 am to 4 pm. No appointment or doctor's note required: Web Link


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