Kern County plans to open six free novel coronavirus testing sites by the end of this week to complement the three that are already operational.
While four of the nine sites are state-sponsored, and test only symptomatic residents, first responders and healthcare workers, Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine announced Monday that five locations would have no screening criteria.
He said the new testing sites would allow the county to expand the range of tests to include people who have not had symptoms yet. The sites are planned for Oildale, Kern River Valley, Delano, Taft and Ridgecrest.
“The idea is: Let’s find a way to identify cases earlier, and intervene earlier, so that we not only get a better understanding of the scope of the virus in our county, but also to further limit its ability to transfer from person to person,” Constantine said during a Monday teleconference.
The fourth state-sponsored facility is expected to open at 204 S. Hill St. in Arvin. It will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Information on all testing sites can be found at kerncounty.com/government/state-covid-19-testing-sites.
The newest testing sites come as Kern officials attempt to reopen more parts of the county.
As more businesses are allowed to operate under Stage 2 of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-part reopening plan, the local county government has moved to allow its offices to begin returning to normal.
During Monday’s press conference, County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said the county would begin moving away from its essential-only staffing model as early as next Monday. While some county offices would remain closed, others will see a greater staffing presence, he said.
“This is going to be a phased reopening, hopefully getting back to normal, whatever that looks like, as soon as possible,” Alsop said. “We’re going to be very smart and careful about how we do this.”
The county began operating under essential staffing rules March 16, twice extending the deadline as COVID-19 dangers persisted. By allowing some employees to return to work, some county operations that have been curtailed may begin to resume.
On Monday, Constantine provided a few details about the expanded testing sites.
The Oildale site will be a drive-thru at the North of the River Veterans Hall located at 400 Norris Road, opened in partnership with Good Samaritan Hospital. It opens today, operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The county will contract with the West Side Health Care District in Taft to open a site there, Constantine said, operating Tuesday through Saturday. The county’s website says the site is located at 100 E. North St. and will operate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The county is finalizing an agreement with the Delano Regional Medical Center to open a site, hopefully on Wednesday.
Details of the testing site at the Kern Valley Hospital are still being finalized, Constantine said, adding that he hoped the site could be operational this week.
He added the county hoped to open a drive-thru testing site at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital this week as well.