Matsui Urges CDPH to Use Federal Funds to Enhance Sacramento County Testing Capacity and Nursing Home Oversight

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), sent a letter to California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell, urging her to direct adequate resources to Sacramento County to help the region reach state COVID-19 testing requirements for reopening and to enhance virus surveillance at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

On April 23rd, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which allotted $25 billion for a new coronavirus testing strategy.  That money is to be used to increase domestic testing capacity, including support for testing supplies, contact tracing, scaling up laboratory capacity and bolstering the public health workforce. As the Sacramento region seeks to take steps to safely reopen its economy, Sacramento County is closely following the criteria outlined by Governor Newsom in the “Roadmap to Recovery.” Within that framework for moving forward, the county must increase its daily testing capacity to over 2,300 people per day and exhibit robust contact tracing capabilities.

In order to better protect our most vulnerable residents  – Congresswoman Matsui is also urging that funds be prioritized to Sacramento County in order to support the immediate need to expand the testing capacity at local nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The County has plans in place to test of all residents and workers within these facilities, but will need the state to direct sufficient federal resources to the region in order to achieve these testing goals.  

Congresswoman Matsui is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and serves as Co-Chair on the House Task Force on Aging and Families.

Full text of the letter is below and here:

Dear Dr. Angell,

I write today to request the state’s assistance with Sacramento’s efforts to expand countywide testing capacity and to bolster COVID-19 surveillance in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.  The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, passed by Congress in late April, included $25 billion in federal funding for a new coronavirus testing program. This bill provided $499,203,108 to the state of California for purchasing and performing COVID-19 tests, conducting contact tracing, scaling up laboratory capacity and supporting our public health workforce.

As California takes steps towards a gradual reopening, widespread testing is essential to understand the virus’ prevalence in our communities and to mitigate future outbreaks. As of early May, Sacramento County was able to test between 1,500 to 2,000 people each day via a growing network of drive through testing locations, public and private labs, and hospitals. However, the County will need to test more than 2,300 people a day and dramatically increase its contract tracing workforce in order to safely reopen per the criteria outlined by Governor Newsom.

Nursing homes and long-term care settings across the country have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. More than 1,000 nursing home residents in California have died of COVID-19-related complications, accounting for nearly half of the state’s overall deaths. I appreciate the Department of Public Health’s guidance to test all those who work and reside in a facility in response to the confirmation of a COVID-19 case. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the virus may be spreading in congregate settings via asymptomatic carriers. Coupled with the fact that nursing homes and long-term care facilities are often home to residents with high risks for health complications, we will not be able to protect this vulnerable population without the means to proactively test and closely monitor all those who live and work at these facilities.

The funding Congress directed to states to support coronavirus testing can include, but is not limited to, expenses for manufacturing, purchasing, administering, and expanding capacity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that residents in long-term facilities be considered top priority for testing and that residents should be separated based on infection status. In my district, Sacramento County has a plan to test all residents and health care workers in skilled nursing facilities and support CDC separation recommendations. Critically, these plans can only be carried out effectively if we have adequate levels of tests and testing supplies. As California prepares to distribute testing funds to its counties, I urge you to direct appropriate resources to Sacramento County to support this critical work and the safety of our community.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter.

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