COVID-19 testing slated to begin on nursing home residents, staff

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The Texas Department of Emergency Management and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently announced local nursing homes will partner with public health authorities to expand COVID-19 testing.

This is made in an effort to provide more COVID-19 testing throughout the state, especially in areas that are considered hotspots.

“Fredericksburg Fire EMS has been tasked with the testing on nursing home patients,” Fredericksburg Fire EMS Infectious Disease Control Officer Catherine Kuhlmann said. “We are currently working to facilitate the best course of action with all parties involved to determine the best way to accomplish this mission.”

Currently, the state is only requiring nursing home staff and residents to be tested. This does not include assisted living facilities or memory care facilities.

Nursing homes, prisons and meat packing plants are considered hot spots for the virus but only nursing homes are required for testing at this time.

For Fredericksburg, 536 tests would be administered per the state’s orders. Residents and staff can refuse testing, but would then be required to quarantine for 14 days, City of Fredericksburg staff said.

According to officials from the City of Fredericksburg, there are three potential options for testing. They include:

• Setting up a testing site with a private entity;

• Training nursing home staff to perform testing and sending tests to a qualified lab;

• Bring a mobile testing task force to nursing home facilities for testing.

“No final decision has been made despite having a deadline,” Kuhlmann said. “With the lack of available tests, it makes it almost impossible for us to meet the Friday deadline. We have tests on order, but we don’t know when exactly they will be here.”

Costs associated with providing these tests are eligible for federal reimbursement.

Kuhlmann said Fredericksburg Fire EMS first responders will act in a support role only.

“We want to provide the least amount of interruption to these facilities and we do not want to bring the virus in or take the virus back out into the community, if it were to be present,” Kuhlmann said. “We want to support the governor and this goal, and get it done in a timely manner.”

This partnership has been developed and is being implemented through an ongoing collaboration between TDEM, the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“This builds upon our efforts to expand COVID-19 testing in the Lone Star State, especially among our most vulnerable Texans,” Abbott said. “I thank our local fire departments for continuing to serve their fellow Texans throughout the COVID-19 response. By serving their communities in this new capacity, we will continue to contain the spread of this virus and protect the health and safety of all Texans.”

Other testing

The Texas Military Department conducted two days of mobile testing and administered 235 tests.

The city has not been notified of any positive test results from the mobile testing sites, as of press time.

The city is only notified of a positive test result if the patient tested resides in Gillespie County.

On Tuesday, Hill Country Memorial reported that 595 tests have been conducted by their organization. Of those, 580 have come back negative and 15 tests are pending.

The county’s five positive tests are all considered recovered as of press time.