Dakota County announces partnership to increase testing at congregate care facilities

Dakota County is taking steps to increase COVID-19 testing at congregate and long-term care facilities.

Thursday morning, county leaders announced a partnership with Bluestone Physician Services to create a program to test the 540 care facilities in the county. The testing would be voluntary as the facilities would be able to choose whether they want to participate.

Dakota County Social Services Director Evan Henspeter said this is a unique move as he believes this marks the first comprehensive testing initiative on a county level that focuses not only on nursing homes and assisting living facilities, but also congregate living facilities. 

"This is something we've got good feedback from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Human Services that this is new ground that we're breaking here and something they're really excited about," Henspeter said. 

The Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved up to $1 million appropriation to fund the program. Commissioner Mary Liz Holberg indicated that amount could increase moving forward, saying COVID-19 is a top priority.

Bluestone Physician Services, based in Stillwater, offers mobile care to those in congregate care settings, reaching about 6,000 patients in Minnesota. To meet the need for the new program with Dakota County, Bluestone will be working with three hospice and home care agencies to complete the testing.

Bonnie Brueshoff, Dakota County Public Health Director, says as of Wednesday, there have been 89 deaths from COVID-19 in the county. The median age of of those deaths is 83 years old.