Kern Public Health to begin local COVID-19 testing program at nursing facilities in response to outbreaks

May 14, 2020 /

In response to an outbreak in nursing facilities, the Kern County Public Health Department announced Thursday at a press conference it has put together a COVID-19 testing program for nursing facility staff and residents that will go into effect Friday.

The County’s program will go into effect as soon as possible rather than wait for the statewide COVID-19 testing program, which won’t go into effect for another 21 days.

“We don’t want to wait at a county level,” said Matt Constantine, the director of Kern County Public Health Services.

The state reported May 12 that 49 healthcare workers and 67 of the 107 residents from the Kingston Healthcare Center, a state-operated nursing facility in Bakersfield, have tested positive for COVID-19, and 11 residents have died.

Valley Convalescent Hospital has also reported positive cases, according to Constantine. Seven healthcare workers have tested positive, while nine of the 69 residents have tested positive.

The facility reached out to the Kern County Public Health Department Wednesday and requested more staffing. Constantine said a request as been made for 14 licensed staff members to assist at this facility.

“This is the second site we are worried about,” Constantine said. “We are going to monitor it closely.”

Public Health will begin it’s nursing facility testing program Friday at Valley Convalescent Hospital.

“This is a local program we are administering at our cost,” Constantine said.

The state has also sent a medical assistance team to the Kingston Healthcare Center for 14 days, which was set to end on Sunday; however, the state has agreed to extend the agreement through May 24.

Kingston said it has hired about 20 new employees this week, according to Constantine.

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Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at