Officials say details on how to screen all Texas nursing home residents, staff are still being removed.



HOUSTON – There are approximately 80,000 residents of nursing homes in Texas and more than double the staff, according to officials with the Health and Human Services Commission. Governor Greg Abbott wants everyone at these facilities to be evaluated for COVID-19, but the trick is how exactly to accomplish that feat.

“We have been advocating for more testing for a long time, so we support what the governor is trying to do,” said George Linial, president and CEO of LeadingAge Texas. “There certainly are concerns, who will pay for the tests, will pay for the additional PPE and all of that stuff.”

Linial said he expects a gradual approach to testing and assurance on how personnel problems will be handled.

“What if multiple staff members test positive and have to let staff quarantine who takes their place?” Linial said.

Linial said he also wants to make sure there are plans to provide follow-up testing after the first round. Meanwhile, some private facilities have started testing on their own. The Harris County Health Department is also assisting with this effort. Harris County Health Department officials said nursing homes in the area have been testing since mid-April.

Stephen Gray is the CEO of VibraLife at Katy. I was delighted to hear that the county will evaluate its residents and staff. He said that strict protocols so far have prevented COVID-19 from invading its facilities, but the tests provide another level of certainty.

“This way I can at least get a good baseline,” Gray said. “What if I have someone who is perhaps a carrier?”

HHSC officials said all the details on how the tests will be conducted and by what time frame are still being resolved. Abbott said his order comes immediately after a national push to screen nursing home residents and staff and that the federal government is helping to provide additional testing supplies.

“People in nursing homes represent the most vulnerable population. Most likely, it is fatally. We want to find who is positive, who is negative, to separate the two, “said Abbott.

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