AUSTIN, Texas - On May 21, Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to expand COVID-19 coronavirus testing to all patients, residents, and staff of the 23 state-operated inpatient psychiatric hospitals and living centers throughout Texas.
HHSC currently operates 13 state-supported living centers (SSLCs) that provide 24-hour residential care, medical services, and vocational training to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. HHSC also operates 10 state hospitals that provide acute inpatient psychiatric care for adults, children, and adolescents.
“Many patients and residents in our care are medically fragile and rely on our frontline healthcare heroes for the important care they receive. By expanding testing to everyone in our facilities, we will increase our ability to further protect everyone who lives and works in our facilities and prevent the spread of the virus throughout our system,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson.
HHSC is currently working with the Texas Department of State Health Services to expand testing to the 4,700 patients and all 18,000 employees at the state-run facilities. According to the governor's office, testing kits are already on the way to the facilities as several local health departments around Texas offer their assistance to help.
"By expanding widespread COVID-19 testing to our state hospitals and state-supported living centers, we are better equipped to identify and mitigate these potential hot spots and protect our most vulnerable populations," said Abbott. "I thank HHSC for their ongoing partnership to provide more testing at these facilities across the state."
The expanded testing is also meant to further assess the scope and extent of the spread of the virus in state facilities. Residents and patients were only previously tested if they displayed symptoms of the virus or had possible exposure. As of May 20, a total of 161 patients and residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and the state says less than 10 residents and/or patients have died.
"All facilities continue to follow strict adherence to CDC guidelines in place to protect the health and safety of residents, patients, and staff. All staff wear masks and are trained in infection control procedures, proper use of personal protective equipment and social distancing measures," a press release from the Governor's office said.
The state also mentions that all visitor restrictions to state hospitals and SSLCs will remain in place and the HHSC will continue to monitor all employees for fever and respiratory illness before they enter any facility.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. Every weekday we're live at 12 p.m. with a special show reporting the latest news, prevention tips and treatment information.
You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.