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Kaweah Health announces street closure for COVID-19 testing, limits elective surgery

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

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VISALIA – Starting next week, the City of Visalia will close a small city block to improve safety for Tulare County residents coming to Kaweah Health for COVID-19 testing.

Effective Tuesday, March 31, Floral Street in downtown Visalia will close to traffic one block north of Kaweah Health Medical Center (between Main Street and Acequia Avenue). The closure will allow Tulare County residents, who the Tulare County Public Health Department would like tested for COVID-19, to drive down the block in their cars and park in the diagonal parking spaces on the street’s west side. Kaweah Health staff will collect specimens from these individuals. Kaweah Health does not do testing; specimens are sent to the Tulare County Public Health Laboratory, which conducts testing to determine whether an individual is positive for COVID-19.

“We want to make this experience as easy as possible for people, many of whom are not feeling well and are anxious. The street will also allow us to potentially expand testing should the need arise,” said Mary Laufer, Director of Nursing Practice at Kaweah Health, noting that the street’s diagonal parking can accommodate more individuals to be swabbed simultaneously.

The City of Visalia approved the street’s closure. Kaweah Health first set up tents outside of the Medical Center on March 13 to collect specimens from people suspected of having COVID-19.

The sites are also being used to screen those individuals who are making use of Kaweah Health's new, free COVID-19 screening hotline at 559-624-4110. Individuals who call receive a same-day appointment with a nurse practitioner who assess by phone whether they have COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone can use the hotline, but people with primary care physicians should call their physician for an assessment first.

Elective Surgery

Kaweah Health has taken a number of measures to put the health and safety of patients and visitors first. To promote safety, particularly in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment – face masks, gowns, gloves, and to ensure that Kaweah Health can meet any additional demands due to increases in COVID-19 patient volumes, Kaweah Health is also asking surgeons to reschedule elective surgeries whenever possible. “We, like other hospitals, have experienced shortages in our supply, so it’s important that we use personal protective equipment when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s appropriate,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Health’s Chief Executive Officer. “It’s important that we must exercise great prudence and be disciplined in our use of personal protective equipment,”

Additionally, Kaweah Health has instituted a no-visitor policy, is screening patients outside of its Emergency Department for COVID-19 symptoms, is limiting entrances to the hospital, has cancelled all public events, has removed volunteers from its sites, has cancelled all business travel, and has asked employees to use teleconferencing or online meetings for internal meetings.

Kaweah Health will continue to share COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at, via media statements, and on its social media accounts.

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, please call your primary physician or 2-1-1 rather than walking into a medical office or hospital. Your physician will connect with Tulare County Public Health to determine if testing is appropriate.