Calls increase for immediate COVID-19 testing of workers at state-funded care facilities

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The largest union of state employees in Texas is calling for the immediate testing of workers at state-funded care facilities.

These include the 13 state-supported living centers and 10 state hospitals spread all over Texas.

“Very little has been done to protect both clients and staff,” reads a release written by the Texas State Employees Union and obtained by KXAN Thursday.

The release says 108 employees at SSLCs and state hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19, along with 120 residents of these facilities.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the facilities, has not been willing to share the number of cases within them.

A spokesperson on Thursday declined to confirm the numbers listed in the union’s release, saying test results of staff and residents are confidential.

TSEU President Judy Lugo says the COVID-19 case numbers were reported from union members who work within HHSC and have access to the numbers.

“They are being told that they’re not allowed to talk about it,” she said of the employees. “If they do they get fired.”

The release calls on Gov. Greg Abbott to not only test all front line workers at state-funded care facilities, but to increase funding for additional staffing and provide hazard pay.

“These employees need to know if they have it,” said Lugo.

On the need for hazard pay, she said front line employees “have to bathe them, they have to feed them, some of them are in wheelchairs.”

We asked the Health and Human Services Commission which workers were being tested at state-funded care facilities, if at all.

“We’re working closely with local health departments and the [Department of State Health Services] to identify and coordinate COVID-19 testing of potentially exposed staff,” an HHSC told us.

Testing is based on risk of exposure and is conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines, she added.

The spokesperson did not address our question about how prepared the state was to conduct widespread testing of employees at SSLCs and state hospitals.

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