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Gov. Abbott says all Texas nursing home residents, staff must be tested for COVID-19

The order by the governor comes after a suggestion from the White House announced Monday.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to test every resident and staffer at Texas nursing homes, a spokesperson for the governor's office told KVUE Monday.

This order by the governor comes after a suggestion from the White House announced earlier Monday.

HHSC released a statement Friday to announce the testing is already in progress and is being administered, in most cases, at the local level by local health departments and fire departments. They said, "nursing facility residents are among the most at-risk for infection, and the expansion of testing to all residents and staff will provide a full picture of the scope and extent of infection at facilities statewide. The goal is to complete the process of testing nursing facilities within two weeks."

According to the announcement, "the State Operations Center has deployed Rapid Assessment Quick Response Forces (RA-QRF) or “surge teams” to 78 nursing facilities in more than 30 counties across the state. The teams deploy to conduct testing and specialized assessments and to help facilities implement important changes to infection control practices. This work will continue until it is no longer needed."

READ: Takeaways from HHSC's statement released Friday

"The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity – especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes," Abbott said Monday. "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."

Texas HHSC said as of Monday, they have received reports of 281 nursing facilities and 100 assisted living facilities in Texas with one or more COVID-19 confirmed positive residents and/or facility staff. HHSC has received reports of 425 resident deaths related to COVID-19 in nursing facilities and 89 resident deaths related to COVID-19 in assisted living facilities located in Texas. 

Long-term care residents make up about 47% of all coronavirus-related deaths in Texas, with 514 residents confirmed fatalities as of Monday.

There is no timeline for when the State expects to complete nursing home testing, but health officials said there are about 150,000 nursing home workers and more than 80,000 nursing home residents in Texas nursing homes. 

There are 1,224 licensed nursing facilities and 2,004 licensed assisted living facilities statewide.

Starting May 15, the DSHS said it will post updates to its website with additional information on long-term care facilities and COVID-19. Among the new information includes breaking down the cases of coronavirus by public health regions. 

For weeks, the KVUE Defenders have been covering the issue of coronavirus in Texas nursing homes. Here is a selection of the continuing coverage:

WATCH: Inside the Austin nursing home hit by the COVID-19 pandemic

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