(Photo via Elvert Barnes/Flickr)

Private health care providers operating within Contra Costa County must now provide timely COVID-19 tests to essential workers, those with symptoms and those exposed to the virus, according to a new health order released today by Contra Costa Health Services.

The county has formally asked Kaiser Permanente, John Muir Health, Sutter Health and San Ramon Regional Medical Center to voluntarily adopt policies allowing anyone who asks to get a fast COVID-19 test, whether or not they have symptoms.

The health order, which takes effect Oct. 8, reflects the growing need to test more people who live and work in Contra Costa County for COVID-19.

Last week, Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano told the county Board of Supervisors that some health providers operating in Contra Costa have not been doing their share of COVID-19 tests. Farnitano and Supervisor John Gioia specifically cited Kaiser, which has the largest health plan enrollment in Contra Costa County.

Kaiser spokeswoman Kerri Leedy said last week that Kaiser has been in compliance with state orders on testing in California, and is following the direction of the state Department of Public Health and the state Department of Managed Health Care on COVID-19 testing. Leedy, as well as John Muir Health spokesman Ben Drew, said those entities both acknowledge the need for more testing, and want to enable more testing.

County health officials recommend that everyone who lives or works in the county consider getting tested, whether not they have symptoms or have had contact with a sick person. Essential workers in jobs with high contact with the public, like store clerks, wait staff, teachers, assisted living staff, among others, should consider getting tested every 30 days, officials recommend.

Anyone, including members of the aforementioned health plans, can get a free test at any of 12 county-operated community testing sites, and same-day appointments are often available. Call (844) 421-0804 or hit the “testing” button at cchealth.org/coronavirus.

About 2,300 people get tested every day in Contra Costa, including tests performed at public testing sites and other sources, including private health providers, according to Contra Costa Health Services. The county’s goal is to test about 4,500 people daily.