Representatives from Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital spoke at a Tele-Town Hall last Friday.

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister has expanded its ability to test more patients for COVID-19.

The hospital, in conjunction with San Benito County Public Health, has revised its testing criteria for those who think they have been exposed to the illness. Anyone with symptoms—such as fever, cough or shortness of breath—or who has been in contact with someone who has the virus, can call Hazel Hawkins’ hotline at (831) 636-2640. Patients will be screened over the phone and receive further instructions.

“Now that the supply of test kits is more readily available and we are able to send the tests out to commercial labs, we have more ability to test,” said Michael Bogey, HHMH Chief of Emergency Medicine.

The local hospital has been hampered in its testing capacity by strict guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bogey added. “Early on, the CDC developed specific criteria that had to be met for hospitals to test someone for COVID-19, especially due to the limited availability of test kits and the capacity for labs to be able to run them,” he said.

Public health experts have stated that more testing of the population for COVID-19 can help slow the spread of the illness.

“We’ve always maintained that we wanted to test everyone possible for COVID-19,” Bogey said. He added, “We do believe that more extensive testing for COVID-19 would help the community as a whole in order to get real numbers of those infected and help decrease community spread.”

As of April 3 in San Benito County, a total of 311 patients have been tested for the novel coronavirus. Of those, 265 have come back negative, and there have been 23 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 locally. Another 23 tests’ results are pending.

One San Benito County resident died with COVID-19 on March 16.

The tests have been analyzed at eight reporting laboratories, according to the county’s April 3 community newsletter.

In California, there have been 10,701 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 237 deaths.

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