No firm plan for mass nursing home testing in Texas

A pop-up testing site in Taylor, run by the National Guard on Saturday, could be one of the ways nursing homes are tested across Texas. As of Tuesday afternoon, there was no firm plan in place on how to comply with Gov. Greg Abbott's order to have all nursing home staff and residents tested for COVID-19.

Despite that unknown, Kevin Warren with the Texas Health Care Association is happy the order was made. "So we can truly, as a state, collectively get our arms around exactly what is it we are dealing with in the state of Texas, so we can address it and we can move forward,” he said.

RELATED: Abbott directs all nursing home residents, staff to be tested for COVID-19

Warren noted about 150,000 people work in the Texas nursing home industry, and there are more than 80,000 residents. Doing so many tests is daunting. On top of that, the White House recommends the testing should be done in 2 weeks. Meeting that deadline is a question of logistics.

“Well I think that’s one of the key questions we are going to have to get a greater understanding of,” said Warren.

The majority of serious cases in Williamson County are from nursing homes, according to a spokesperson for County Judge Bill Gravell. Nationwide, the Associated Press says 26,000 COVID-19 deaths have come from nursing homes, a third of all cases in the U.S.


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The governor stated his order, “will ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained."

The Trinity Care Center in Round Rock had one of the first big outbreaks in late April. Testing was done as part of the response. It's unclear if sites like Trinity will be required to do another round of tests, in order to comply with the governor's order.

RELATED: Abbott, HHSC announce over $1B in pandemic food benefits for Texas families

In a statement sent to FOX7, Kelli Weldon with Texas Health & Human Services said:

“We are working closely with Department of State Health Services and Texas Division Emergency Management to develop and carry out this plan, which builds upon efforts to expand COVID-19 testing in Texas, especially for our most vulnerable Texans."

Using drive up testing locations run by private health providers is a possible scenario for nursing home employees. Local rapid response strike teams could also be sent to facilities to do the testing. What to do with the new testing data is the next big question for Warren.

"We are asking the state, and we've already begun working with the state to make sure we have a statewide staffing strategy and a plan in place so we don’t set up buildings for failure if we find these outbreaks and we don’t have the ability to support and care for residents in these communities if we have significant hotspots in a greater number of buildings," said Warren.


Another unknown is how "nursing home" in the governor’s order should be defined. As of right now, a spokesperson for Texas HHSC told FOX 7 the term does not include assisted senior living facilities, but that could change in the coming days.


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