Hays County Task Force concludes COVID-19 testing at nursing facilities

Brianna Benitez, Life and Arts Editor

The Hays County Task Force will complete COVID-19 testing for all residents and employees across six Hays County nursing facilities May 22.

The task force consisted of 18 testing personnel and eight support personnel who were able to test up to 100 people per hour at facilities in Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Kyle and San Marcos. More than 1,000 employees and residents in the facilities were tested with results expected within 72 hours.

“What’s so unique and special about this task force is that they all volunteered to help, we didn’t have to require anyone to participate,” San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens said. “They all have a selfless spirit and immediately stepped up to assist with this important effort to help protect one of the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”

The task force began after Gov. Greg Abbott’s order asked fire departments to test all nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19.

“On May 11, fire departments statewide received a request from the Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to conduct a 17-page survey of all the long-term care facilities in our jurisdiction,” San Marcos Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said. “This request was updated on Wednesday, May 13 to include COVID-19 testing in all licensed nursing facilities. We began working on it immediately with the goal to protect and serve the identified, at-risk community.”

A county-wide task force was then formed with personnel from San Marcos Fire Department, Kyle Fire Department, Buda Fire Department, North Hays Fire Rescue, South Hays Fire Department, San Marcos Emergency Management, Hays County Health Department and San Marcos Hays County Emergency Medical Services.

Before administering tests, the task force worked with Dr. Katherine Remick, San Marcos Hays County EMS Medical Director, to establish protocols in order to conduct safe and efficient testing.

All task force members wore Tyvek suits, disposable medical gowns, two layers of medical gloves, N95 face masks, face shields, booties and head coverings while conducting tests. Between every test, personnel changed one set of gloves and their disposable apron.

“The goal of the stringent protective clothing requirements was not only to keep the first responders safe but to also keep all the residents and facility employees safe as well,” Hays County Local Health Department Epidemiologist Eric Schneider said.

Most test results are received within 48 hours; however, 72 hours is the expectation. All testing is paid by the State directly to the private lab. The City qualifies for reimbursement for other expenses from TDEM, through the CARES Act.

The University Star will continue to provide COVID-19 updates as any additional information is released.

Individuals concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the Hays County Local Health Department at 512.393.5520. For additional information about COVID-19, visit the Texas Department of State Health Services or the Centers for Disease Control website.

The University Star’s COVID-19 coverage can be found here.


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