Austin Public Health tests PPE for nursing home strike teams

Austin Public Health has started to ramp up testing and implement new strike teams to combat COVID-19 in Travis County.

The Texas Division Of Emergency Management approved Austin Public Health's request for four Nursing Home Strike Teams to respond to the Travis County nursing homes facing COVID-19 clusters. 

The strike team is made up of about a dozen first responders and is funded by the state to make sure they have the right PPE and know how to use it.

“We're going to be asked to go out and test and help out nursing homes in our region because they're just being hit so hard by the pandemic,” said Paul Mallon, Field Captain with Austin-Travis County EMS.


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One way N95 masks are tested is by putting the first responder into a capsulated area and then filling that area with a bitter-tasting substance. "We want to make sure that mask fits the responder or the nurse correctly,” said Mallon.

If the first responder doesn't taste the substance, the mask is doing its job.

Each first responder part of the team is also taught how to put on and take off their PPE to avoid getting sick. “It gives them confidence in the equipment that they're using,” said Mallon.


Austin Public Health has also ramped up testing capabilities by opening it up to the public with no doctor referral needed. “Anybody can fill it out within their own home, and it really opens the door to get more people signed up for testing,” said Benjamin Buotte with Austin Public Health.

The form is called the Public Testing Enrollment Form. It is a form that can be found online and be filled out by anyone who feels sick or was exposed to the virus. 

“It's a very quick process. We've had just over 3000 people sign up for the assessment. They filled out the assessment and completed everything online, and so far after today, we would have tested just over 500 people,” said Buotte.

The Public Enrollment Form's self-assessment can be found here.



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