Private Effort Launched to Test all Lamorinda Senior Care Residents, Staff

(Mimi Bommarito, Photographer)
A message on an Orinda sidewalk says it all.

    An ongoing joint effort is underway in Orinda, Moraga and Lafayette to test residents of senior care facilities who are 65 years old or older, as well as staffers, for Covid-19.
    Sue Severson, one of the organizers of the campaign at senior care homes, said testing is the key to stopping the spread of Covid-19 – especially in Orinda. Seniors have been the hardest hit by the deadly virus and are considered the most vulnerable.
    “It is critical to wipe out the Covid-19 hot spot in Orinda. We need to identify those most vulnerable senior citizens who are infected so we can get them treatment and prevent the virus from spreading to infect others,” she said.
    In April, four residents of the Orinda Care Center died from complications related to Covid-19. In addition, 28 residents and staff tested positive for the virus at the same senior care facility.
    Spearheaded by Orinda Vice Mayor Amy Worth and her counterpart in Lafayette, Susan Candell, the testing campaign involves about 300 residents and staff at facilities in Lafayette and 360 in Moraga. Final numbers for Orindans who will be tested were not available at press time.
    The facilities involved are Orinda Senior Village and Monteverde Senior Housing in Orinda; Merrill Gardens, Belle Terre, Eden Senior Housing and Chateau Lafayette in Lafayette, and Moraga Royale and Aegis in Moraga.
    Residents and staff of the Orinda Care Center may also be tested depending on the amount of testing Contra Costa County’s Health Services staff have already done there.
    Each test costs $56 to administer and organizations including the Orinda Community Foundation (OCF) are raising money to pay for them. Orinda’s fundraising goal is $20,000. Donations can be made online at the OCF’s website,
    Developed by LabCorps, the test requires a nasal swab to be administered by a medical professional wearing protective gear.
    “Other cheaper and less intensive tests are available, but unfortunately they produce a lot of false negatives,” said Severson. “A false negative means the test shows the person tested does not have Covid-19, when in fact they are infected, so they can still infect others. This can have deadly consequences in a senior care facility environment.”
    Severson’s son, Dr. Chris Severson, an emergency room doctor at Kaiser Permanente’s Walnut Creek Medical Center, is volunteering to administer the tests as is Susan Candell’s husband, Dr. Brian Candell and his partner Dr. Yenjean Hwang. 
    Severson said if any qualified medical professionals want to help with the testing, they should get in touch with her via the Orinda Foundation.
    Contra Costa County health officials began making Covid-19 testing available for all county residents last month.
    Drive-through testing for all county residents – whether they have Covid-19 symptoms or not – is also available. The tests are conducted by Contra Costa County Health Services officials at five sites throughout the county. Tests require an appointment that can be made by calling 844-421-0804 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
    The state is offering walk-up testing at sites in Walnut Creek, Pinole and Brentwood. These tests require an appointment.
    There is no up-front cost for the testing and medical insurance is not needed. However, those who have health insurance will have their insurer billed for the test.
    In other Contra Costa County Covid-19 news, the county last month unveiled an indicators dashboard showing the progress being made in slowing the spread of the virus. These indicators are being tracked by health officials to determine when additional activities can resume. To access the dashboard, go to
    The latest information on California’s ongoing response to Covid-19 can be obtained by taking part in virtual town hall meetings held by Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) at:
    Orinda Assembly Rep. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan also has a Covid-19 resource page available at

(Kathy Enzerink, Photographer)
Customers at the Orinda Safeway keep a safe distance apart.

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