State strike team listens to COVID-19 concerns in Tulare County

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Overwhelmed hospitals.

Large outbreaks at food processing plants and skilled nursing facilities.

And sobering statistics that mean ongoing restrictions on everything from local businesses to schools.

Tulare County is waging a war against the coronavirus, and the state is here to help meet their needs and get a handle on the virus' spread.

"We're here to listen to them, what's working, what isn't," California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said. "How can we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19, mitigate the impacts, identify where the gaps are, and make sure that we're really delivering as an all government approach?"

Protecting essential workers in the field and food processing facilities is a top priority for Tulare County and the entire Central Valley.

Ross says the state is already addressing that through a new program that provides hotel rooms to agriculture workers who have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19.

Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency Spokesperson Carrie Monteiro says other topics discussed during the state's two-day visit include how to improve contact tracing and increase capacity at their state certified public health lab.

"Here in Tulare County we want to be at max capacity for testing and labs," Monteiro said. "And so (we're) really having frank discussions with the state on resources that we can get available to Tulare County and here in the Valley so we can up that capacity to better respond."

"One of the things we've heard loud and clear here in Tulare County is increasing testing is great, but the labs on the back end, if they don't have the supplies to process those tests, we have too long of a delay in getting those test results out, and then what's the point of testing?" Ross said.

The partnership between the state and county doesn't end here.

State representatives will return to Sacramento to start the next steps of delivering resources and positive results to an area that needs relief now.

Tulare County is the second to last stop for the Central Valley task force.

A team will travel to Kings County next week.
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