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COVID Testing at Long Term Care Facilities

Original post made by Partha Parthasarathy, another community, on Oct 2, 2020

Private health care providers operating within Contra Costa County must now provide timely COVID-19 tests to essential workers according to a new health order released recently by Contra Costa Health Services. While the County is taking steps to expand testing, we also need to do everything in our power to expand access to rapid testing in nursing homes and other long-term care (LTC) communities, which have only 2% of the U.S. population but 40% of all COVID deaths.

LTC communities in Contra Costa are now required by the state to re-open for visitation. I am concerned that this will put residents with Alzheimer's and other dementia at risk of infection unless facilities have a way to test all visitors on-site to ensure they are not infected before allowing them in. The state's visitation protocols require facilities to take visitors' temperature before admitting them but, since 40% of people with COVID have no symptoms, this is inadequate. Residents with dementia do not understand the need for, and cannot be compelled to observe, safe distancing, wearing a mask or washing their hands before touching their face, putting them at particular risk of infection.

For these reasons, I believe visitation should not be allowed until a long-term care community has the capability to employ rapid testing for all staff, visitors, and residents. Action is urgent because the lack of rapid testing capacity in long-term care communities is preventing people with dementia from safely seeing their loved ones and participating in normal physical and social activities. As a result, thousands of people with dementia are dying from isolation.

I strongly urge our elected leaders, including Governor Newsom and Congressmen Swalwell and DeSaulnier, to do everything in their power to expand testing to keep our elderly population, especially those with dementia, safe.

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