Surge response teams active in 60 Texas communities this weekend tackling COVID-19 clusters


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Health, military and emergency management personnel are spread out across Texas to tackle COVID-19 clusters this weekend, the state’s emergency management chief said.

Those “surge response teams” are located in 60 communities around Texas to help with testing, medical supply delivery and sanitation, approximately five times the number of teams in the initial dispatch six weeks ago.

nim kidd and seth christensen tdem
Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd and communications director Seth Christensen review a social media post on May 22, 2020. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“We know right now that nursing homes, meatpacking plants and jails and prisons are the top three areas where we see outbreaks occur,” Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management said. “What we’re trying to do — and doing with success — is getting into those locations, testing everybody in the facility. Trying to get a very rapid turnaround on those tests, which isn’t always as fast as I want it to be, and making sure that we take people that are positive and keep them together, and people that are negative and keep them together.”

Kidd uses a wildfire analogy to explain how the state approaches a community where there’s been an outbreak.

“We’ve evacuated the area, now we’re letting people back in, we know that we’re going to have hotspots, and we have these surge teams created to go and address those hotspots,” Kidd said.

“We are currently helping with the disinfecting of all of our nursing homes, trying to do our best to help everyone out,” Sergeant Diana Byrd, battle noncommissioned officer with the Army National Guard Joint Task Force 176, said in a video released by the Texas Military Department.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday the surge response teams are helping contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in Texas.

“Every time we have pushed these surge teams into hot zones, they’ve met with very good results,” Abbott said. “But what happens is over the first week you will see a massive increase in the amount of tests as well as the amount of the people who test positive, and then after about two weeks, you see a decline in both tests and those testing positive and you see a containment of the problem.”

surge team mt pleasant
Members of the Texas Air and Army National Guard prepare to administer COVID-19 tests at a meat packing plant in Mount Pleasant, Texas, on May, 19, 2020. On the order of Governor Greg Abbott, members of the Texas National Guard began providing free COVID-19 testing to employees at meat processing plants across the state of Texas in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities and to ensure that Texas’ food supply remains stable during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Texas Air National Guard Photo/Staff Sergeant Sean Kornegay)

“What we do anticipate is as we continue to open up the state for doing business, there will be some other hotspots that arise,” Abbott explained. “But because we have the system perfected the way that we do, I think that we will be able to contain hot spots in Texas as we move forward.”

Kidd said the state is leaning on local fire and EMS departments to help meet the Governor’s mandate of testing all of the state’s nursing homes and providing additional testing for workers at meat processing facilities where outbreaks have taken over.

“By training together and working together and assisting them and finding the swabs and the PPE (personal protective equipment), those local fire assets are actually out in the field today, helping us with testing of nursing homes, and we want to continue that process with them,” Kidd said. “It keeps everything local, but it leaves us having to not send as many state agency responders in to help because our local government partners there have the resources to do the job.”

“We want to continue our surge teams because we know there is a portion of the population that is positive, but asymptomatic testing is the only way to do that,” Kidd said.

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