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Kaweah Health Chief Executive Officer answers community's COVID-19 questions

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Laura Florez-McCusker

Info shared on inpatient testing, number of COVID-19 positive employees and more

VISALIA – As the number of cases rise in Tulare County, many people have questions and concerns about COVID-19. On Thursday, in a video-conference call, Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health's Chief Executive Officer, answered questions from Tulare County residents.

Question: How many positive COVID-19 cases are in Tulare County? How many people have died from COVID-19 in Tulare County? How many have recovered? How many COVID-19 positive patients are at Kaweah Health? How many people has Kaweah Health collected specimens from for COVID-19 testing?

Answer: As of April 16, there have been 372 positive cases of COVID-19 in Tulare County. Of those, 17 have died and 22 people have recovered. As of April 16, Kaweah Health Medical Center is caring for 23 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. As of April 16, Kaweah Health has collected 1,977 specimens. Of those, 173 have tested positive for COVID-19, 1,676 have tested negative and test results are pending for 128 patients.

Question: What is Kaweah Health doing to help Redwood Springs?

Answer: Since concerns surfaced last week that state and local health officials might close the Visalia nursing facility due to a lack of staffing, Kaweah Health, along with Sierra View and Adventist Health Tulare, provided immediate staffing assistance over the weekend. Kaweah Health nursing staff also provided assistance on Monday and Wednesday. Kaweah Health has compiled a list of approximately 25 Registered Nurses, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, Medical Assistants, etc. who are ready and willing to help care for patients at Redwood Springs, if needed. Additionally, Kaweah Health has also provided technical support, personal protective equipment, and Kaweah Health's recently retired Director of Nursing Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Services has come out of retirement to provider leadership support to Redwood Springs.

Question: In light of the new outbreak at Lindsay Gardens, what is Kaweah Health doing to keep its skilled nursing patients safe?

Answer: To date, Kaweah Health has not had a patient in its skilled nursing program contract COVID-19. Kaweah Health put the facility where its skilled nursing program operates on lock down almost immediately, instituting a no-visitor policy. Only patients who are near death may have a visitor. Additionally, Kaweah Health screens its employees there daily when they arrive to work and whenever they return to the facility throughout the day. This includes taking temperatures and checking for symptoms of COVID-19. Employees with symptoms may not enter the building and must quarantine themselves. Two weeks ago, Kaweah Health mandated that all employees wear a facemask at work. Employees are asked to practice social distancing, perform regular and proper hand hygiene, and constantly disinfect surfaces.

Question: How many Kaweah Health employees have tested positive for COVID-19?

Answer: While Kaweah Health staff are exercising an abundance of caution, 21 of Kaweah Health's 5,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Kaweah Health sent all home to quarantine. Three of those 21 have now fully recovered and are back at work after testing negative for COVID-19. None of these employees have required hospitalization.

Question: Is Kaweah Health's in-house COVID-19 testing ready?

Answer: Yes. Kaweah Health now has the ability to collect a specimen from any patient inside its Medical Center and test it for COVID-19. Results are available in minutes without having to send specimens to Tulare County Public Health Laboratory. This allows Kaweah Health to do testing of any employee, physician or resident, who may exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. Additionally, Kaweah Health can determine whether someone who came to the Emergency Department, but needs to be admitted to the hospital has COVID-19 prior to admission.

Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency advises if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your primary physician or 2-1-1.

Additionally, people can call (559) 624-4110, Kaweah Health's free COVID-19 hotline allows an individual with COVID-19 symptoms, to schedule a same-day appointment with a nurse practitioner. Kaweah Health shares COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at and on its social media accounts.