Abbott: All nursing home patients and staff to get tested for COVID-19

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday directed state health officials to test all nursing home residents and staff in Texas for COVID-19.

Abbott’s announcement followed a recommendation by the White House earlier in the day that residents and staff at nursing homes get tested for the coronavirus.

A press release from the governor’s office states that Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Department of State Health Services to develop and implement a plan based on the guidance of Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, who are both members of the White House coronavirus task force.

“The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity — especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes,” said Abbott. “This important collaboration among HHSC, TDEM, and DSHS will ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained.”

As of press time Monday, 19 people at nursing homes in Cameron County have died because of COVID-19, the Cameron County Public Health Department reports. Ten of those death occurred at the Veranda Rehabilitation and Health Care facility, while an additional nine people being cared for at Windsor Atrium passed away there. Both facilities are in Harlingen.

According to the county health department, 32 employees and 60 residents at Veranda tested positive for the coronavirus, while 32 employees and 54 residents tested positive at Windsor Atrium. One patient tested positive for COVID-19 at Spanish Meadows Nursing Center and Assisted Living Center in Brownsville.

The Associated Press reports more than 26,000 residents and staff have died from outbreaks of the virus at the nation’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to an AP tally based on state health departments and media reports. That is about a third of all 76,000 deaths in the U.S. that have been attributed to the virus.

Nursing home operators have said the lack of testing has left them nearly powerless to stop the virus from entering their facilities because they haven’t been able to identity silent spreaders among already sick residents and staff not showing symptoms, the AP reports.

lmartinez@brownsvilleherald.com