Virus testing expands to staff, residents of state hospitals, supported living centers

File photo: The Texas Health and Human Services Commission operates 13 state-supported living centers that provide 24-hour residential care, medical services, and vocational training for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

AUSTIN, Tex. (KBTX)- Authorities have confirmed at least two of the nearly 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington County have been traced back to the Brenham State Supported Living Center.

"Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our residents, the staff that works tirelessly to serve them and the local community that is such a strong supporter Brenham State Supported Living Center," said Christine Mann, Chief Press Officer for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission.

"All residents at state-supported living centers and state hospitals will be tested for COVID-19," said Mann.

Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to expand COVID-19 testing to all patients, residents, and staff at the 23 state-operated inpatient psychiatric hospitals and living centers throughout Texas.

"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," said Governor Abbott. "I thank HHSC for their ongoing partnership to provide more testing at these facilities across the state."

HHSC operates 13 state-supported living centers (SSLCs) that provide 24-hour residential care, medical services, and vocational training for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The agency also operates 10 state hospitals that provide acute inpatient psychiatric care for adults, children, and adolescents.

“Many patients and residents in our care are medically fragile and rely on our frontline healthcare heroes for the important care they receive. By expanding testing to everyone in our facilities, we will increase our ability to further protect everyone who lives and works in our facilities and prevent the spread of the virus throughout our system,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson.

Today’s announcement expands testing to all patients, residents, and staff to further assess the scope and extent of possible infections at facilities statewide. Previously, residents and patients were tested if they displayed symptoms of COVID-19 or had possible exposure to the virus. The new round of testing will cover those who have shown no signs of COVID-19 or have not been tested within the last 30 days.

HHSC is working with the Texas Department of State Health Services to expand testing for the 4,700 patients and residents as well as 18,000 employees at the SSLCs and state hospitals. Testing kits are already making their way to the facilities and several local health departments have offered their assistance.

As of May 20, a total of 161 patients and residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 107 individuals have recovered from the virus and fewer than 10 residents and/or patients have died. The latest aggregate data on COVID-19 cases at state hospitals and SSLCs can be found here.

The Governor's office says all facilities continue to follow strict adherence to CDC guidelines in place to protect the health and safety of residents, patients, and staff. All staff wear masks and are trained in infection control procedures, proper use of personal protective equipment, and social distancing measures. Visitor restrictions to state hospitals and SSLCs remain in place and HHSC continues to screen all employees for fever and respiratory illness prior to entering its facilities. Any person with a fever or unexplained signs of respiratory illness is not allowed entrance to HHSC facilities.