Gov. Abbott orders coronavirus testing at all state hospitals and supported living centers

Governor Greg Abbott coronavirus press conference May 5 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, delivers remarks during a press conference on May 5, 2020, updating the public on the state’s response to COVID-19. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Health and Human Services Commission to conduct coronavirus testing on all 22,700 patients and employees in the state’s mental hospitals and state supported living centers, according to an order issued Thursday.

There are 13 state supported living centers (SSLCs) in Texas providing round-the-clock care for people with intellectual and development disabilities that are also medically fragile or have behavioral issues, according to HHSC.

Texas’ 10 state hospitals provide inpatient psychiatric services for children and adults. It is not clear, from Abbott’s news release, when the testing will be completed.

Abbott’s directive for comprehensive coronavirus testing comes after 161 patients or residents in seven of the state facilities tested positive for the virus – 107 of those people have recovered. Fewer than 10 of them died, according to HHSC. There are 4,700 residents and patients in state hospitals and SSLCs, with 18,000 employees, according to state data.

“By expanding widespread COVID-19 testing to our state hospitals and state supported living centers, we are better equipped to identify and mitigate these potential hot spots and protect our most vulnerable populations,” Abbott said in a prepared statement.

Coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has infected nearly 52,000 people in Texas and killed 1,434, as of Thursday. Abbott has focused on expanding testing for specific hard-hit populations. On May 11, he ordered testing on all nursing home residents and employees.

State Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, said in a statement issued Thursday that with this latest call for testing Abbott had met most of the demands made in April by a group of legislators who called on the governor to test vulnerable populations. Last month, 63 Democratic and Republican state lawmakers signed a letter to Abbott asking to have all individuals tested at “long-term care facilities—including nursing homes, state-supported living centers, and group homes,” according to Talarico’s statement.

Abbott has directed state officials to test nursing home, SSLCs and state hospitals. He has not yet called for comprehensive testing in group homes, which provide services to disabled people in the community. Talarico said the governor’s orders also do not cover seniors in residential centers.

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