MCKINNEY, Texas - The governor's plan to use strike force teams to test all residents and staff of Texas nursing homes for COVID-19 got underway Friday in McKinney and Plano.
The large scale effort is expected to take three weeks to complete.
There are 10 North Texas fire departments taking part in the effort to test nursing home residents in seven North Texas counties.
It is a new job for firefighter paramedics. They now have the tedious process of testing all of the most vulnerable Texans, every nursing home resident, for COVID-19.
“We go in facility, suit our guys up and test all employees as well as residents,” said McKinney Fire EMS Chief Charlie Skaggs.
About 200 residents and staff at Belterra Health and Rehab in McKinney were the first to be tested as part of the governor's strike force plan.
“It's a unique situation with McKinney Fire,” Skaggs said. “We are on deployment now with the Emergency Management Task Force. It is uniquely deployed in our own city, able to test in our own facilities.”
The effort requires a lot of personal protective equipment like suits, goggles, N-95 masks, gloves and more.
Since the McKinney Fire Department has already been conducting testing, Friday’s mission was to train others who are on the state task force.
The Dallas Fire Department is participating in the task force on a volunteer basis. The state has not yet said if it will reimburse the costs of the overtime.
Earlier, the state said it would be up to departments to work with their county health departments for the tests and PPE.