AUSTIN, Texas - Gov. Greg Abbott is directing all residents and staff of Texas nursing homes to be tested for COVID-19.
Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to develop and implement a plan based on the guidance of Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx.
"The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity—especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes," said Abbott. "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."
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The directive comes after the White House strongly recommended to governors Monday that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for the coronavirus in the next two weeks.
Why the government is not ordering testing at the nation's more than 15,000 nursing homes was unclear. Nor was it clear why it is being recommended now, more than two months after the nation's first major outbreak at a nursing home outside of Seattle that eventually killed 43 people.
More than 26,000 residents and staff have died from COVID-19 outbreaks at the nation's nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to an AP tally based on state health departments and media reports. That is about a third of all 76,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to the virus.
Nursing home operators have said the lack of testing has left them nearly powerless to stop the virus from entering their facilities because they haven't been able to identity silent spreaders among already sick residents and staff not showing symptoms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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