Healthcare workers at Los Banos clinic test positive for COVID-19, health officials assessing exposure to public

LOS BANOS, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the Central Valley continues to grapple with COVID-19, an outbreak at a Los Banos health clinic has the North Valley on high alert and searching for hundreds of people who could have come in contact with the infected.

Ten healthcare workers at the Sutter Rural Health Clinic in Los Banos have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Merced County Department of Public Health.

"My daughter and her husband go there and take my grandkids there, and they have really good service there," said Los Banos resident Franklin Oliveira, who was driving by the facility on Friday. "And it's very sad what happened and I'm praying for them to recover from this."

The ten healthcare workers are said to all be in isolation, and at this point, none are hospitalized. Dr. Salvador Sandoval with Merced County Public Health says they are estimating that up to 425 people could have come in contact with the infected healthcare workers, and with those ten workers now in isolation, they're losing people on the front lines.

"When they're taken out of commission, that reduces our poor ratio of providers to general population in the county," Dr. Sandoval said.

Staff members are working with health officials to identify and contact all individuals who may have been exposed. Authorities say if you visited the clinic on or near the dates of March 29 - April 8 and are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 (shortness of breath, fever, and cough), please call the clinic at 866-961-2889.

Oliveira said he lost a friend to COVID-19 over the weekend, and says he's thankful for those on the front lines of the pandemic.

"Thank you so much for taking a big risk, we're all in this together.... we're all in this together," he said.

Sutter Health released the following statement:

"The health and safety of our providers, employees and patients is our highest priority and we deeply value the compassionate care our healthcare workers deliver each day. We can confirm that some individuals at the Rural Health Clinic tested positive for COVID-19. We are working closely with Merced County Department of Public Health to trace and notify those who may have been exposed. We have also taken immediate steps to minimize the risk of further exposure by closing the clinic, conducting a deep clean of the space and prioritizing the testing of healthcare workers. In order to keep our patients and employees safe, Sutter Health has also implemented temperature screenings at all care facilities across our network and implemented universal masking.

The Rural Health Clinic is an important access point to care within the community, and we are working hard to reopen the clinic on Monday, April 13, when patients will be able to see providers via video visits. We are grateful for the support from our community and government partners and remain committed to supporting our patients and employees during this public health emergency."

Once the clinic is properly cleaned, Sutter Health hopes to have telemedicine available for patients starting on Monday.

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