Santa Clara County officials have confirmed a second case of the South African COVID-19 variant within the county. (Photo via Fernando Zhiminaicela/Pixabay)

Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody issued a revised testing order Wednesday, requiring health care providers to make novel coronavirus testing easier and more efficient to obtain.

Cody’s revisions to the county’s June 10 testing order will legally require large health care companies and nonprofits such as Kaiser Permanente, HCA Healthcare and Sutter Palo Alto Medical Foundation to provide coronavirus testing to more categories of patients and take less time to report results of those tests.

The revised testing order also requires providers to inform patients how to access coronavirus testing and to remove impediments to testing, according to Cody.

Health care providers that do not act in accordance with the revised order will face monetary fines.

“Embers start fires,” Cody said, “and people with COVID, especially those who don’t know that they have it, start COVID outbreaks. So testing is really foundational to our ability to prevent COVID.”

According to county data, Kaiser Permanente averaged 4,261 tests during the most recent reporting week from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6. Sutter Palo Alto Medical Foundation averaged 1,426 tests during that seven-day span, but no other healthcare provider averaged more than 700, according to the county.

By contrast, the county-run Santa Clara Valley Medical Center reported 13,072 tests during the week of Aug. 31 to Sept. 6.

The revised order will require health care providers to return coronavirus test results in no more than three days from when a patient’s test sample is taken.

The order also requires providers to provide coronavirus testing to all symptomatic people, all people who have been exposed to a confirmed case of the virus, all people referred by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, and all people classified as essential workers by the California Department of Managed Health Care.

In announcing the revised order, Cody and Santa Clara County Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Joe Simitian touted the support of 10 mayors across the county, including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“The only way we’re really going to be able to beat this virus is by having all of our health care providers pushing with us,” Liccardo said.

County officials pointed to the state’s new emphasis on testing when determining whether to allow counties to reopen certain business sectors as well as in-person classes for schools.

Counties must meet thresholds for new cases per 100,000 residents and test positivity rate to move through the state’s four-tiered economic reopening system.

“The only way we’re going to keep ourselves safe, get back to work, let a grandparent hug their grandkids safely, is by getting the testing done,” Simitian said. “And that means now — not later, not weeks or months from now, but today.”

The revised order takes effect Sept. 25, according to the county.