01 Oct County Lifts Health Orders That Expanded COVID Testing Access Early in the Pandemic
This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist was testing patientsí samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, using the CDC serologic test. (James Gathany / CDC 2020)
By Eli Walsh
Bay City News Foundation
Contra Costa County health officials lifted a trio of health orders this week that expanded the availability of COVID-19 testing in the early months of the pandemic.
The orders authorized COVID testing at locations operated by OptumServe, directed laboratories to report COVID test results to local and state public health agencies and required health care facilities to provide COVID testing.
County Health Officer Dr. Ori Tzvieli rescinded the three orders Tuesday, arguing that “organizational and regulatory changes at the state and federal level” have made them unnecessary in the current state of the pandemic.
OptumServe is now conducting COVID testing under state authority rather than local authority, according to a spokesperson for Contra Costa Health Services, while testing laboratories are now required by the state to properly report their testing data.
The testing requirement for large health care providers like Kaiser Permanente was determined to be unnecessary due to the widespread availability of at-home tests and federal requirements that health care providers offer a certain number of COVID tests for free each month.
The three health orders were originally issued between May and September 2020.
CCHS also announced this week that it will close its COVID testing sites in Richmond and San Ramon, citing a significant drop in demand at both locations over the summer.
The two sites closed for good after Friday.
“Although the county testing sites will sunset, people can also still get tested through their regular healthcare providers, state testing sites, pharmacies or by purchasing over-the-counter home test kits,” CCHS said in a statement.
The county provides free at-home COVID tests at all 26 of its library branches and at its three COVID vaccination sites in Richmond, Concord and Antioch.
As of Thursday, the county has reported 269,727 COVID cases since the pandemic began.
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