Dakota County has launched the most comprehensive, free COVID-19 testing program among Minnesota counties for the vulnerable population of residents and staff in congregate care facilities, assisted-living centers and group homes. In Dakota County, 66 of the 87 COVID-19 deaths occurred among residents of long-term care or assisted-living facilities.
The Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved a contract Tuesday, June 30 with Bluestone Physician Services to proactively address an urgent need for more testing. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected congregate care settings across the state. While 11 percent of confirmed cases in the county are in congregate facilities, deaths in congregate care settings account for 76 percent of COVID-related deaths.
“The Board of Commissioners is prioritizing the health of our most vulnerable residents and the dedicated staff who work with them by making COVID-19 testing available in a way no other county has done yet," Dakota County Commissioner Mary Liz Holberg said.
Dakota County is home to 540 congregate living sites – this includes nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and group homes. Bluestone staff will offer free testing as well as education about the use of personal protective equipment and infection-control recommendations to reduce the spread of coronavirus in these settings. Testing is voluntary and there is no direct cost to residents or facility staff who participate.
Bluestone Physician Services is a primary care clinic based in Stillwater, serving patients in assisted-living and group homes. Bluestone began proactively testing residential care settings at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak and is proud to partner with Dakota County in this new testing effort.
Bluestone and Dakota County will coordinate to determine a testing priority and work with facility management to reach agreements on testing coordination and scheduling. Following testing, the county will continue to support these facilities and help to provide them with the resources they need.
The testing partnership will be Dakota County's first use of its distribution of federal CARES Act funding.