Alameda, Contra Costa Cos. issue orders requiring symptom screening, masks at health facilities

Licensed health care facilities in Alameda County will have to screen all staff and visitors for high temperatures and they all must wear masks under a new health order that goes into effect on Tuesday to try to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, county health officials said.

The order by county health officer Dr. Erica Pan applies to long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities and other congregate living settings and agencies in the county.

The order is similar to one issued Monday by Contra Costa County health officer Dr. Chris Farnitano and follows up on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Friday that he is taking steps to protect residents and employees of the state’s nursing home and residential care facilities.

“People living and working in congregate settings, like skilled care and residential care facilities, are at increased risk of infection because COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact with one another,” Pan said in a statement.

“Due to underlying health conditions and age, the residents face higher risk of serious health consequences, including hospitalization and life-threatening illness,” Pan said.

The safety of residents and staff members at facilities for seniors in Alameda is a pressing concern because nine patients have died of COVID-19 at the Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, with an additional 41 residents and 25 staff members testing positive.

Seventeen residents and 23 staff members at the East Bay Post-Acute Care and Rehabilitation Center in Castro Valley have tested positive for the virus.

According to the new rules, staff members, contractors and other essential visitors must be screened and wear masks before they’re allowed into facilities and residents must wear masks outside their rooms.

Anyone who has a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, feels like they have a fever or has other COVID-19 symptoms will be denied entry.

Facilities are asked to avoid using employees who have worked at other licensed facilities in the past two weeks and to keep a daily log of employees that must be produced immediately if health officials ask to see it. Violations of the order can be punished by fines of up to $10,000 and a year in jail.

Alameda County COVID-19 information and resources can be found at acphd.org/2019-ncov.

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