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Posted on: May 22, 2020

Hays Co Task Force Completes COVID Testing at Nursing Facilities

San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens holding a test tube with a label.

On Friday, May 22, the Hays County Task Force responsible for testing County nursing facilities will complete testing for all residents and employees across six facilities in Hays County.

Overall, more than 1,000 employees and residents will be tested in these facilities with test results expected within 72 hours of submission. The daily task force consisted of 18 testing personnel and eight support personnel who administered a system that allowed them to test up to 100 people per hour at facilities in Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Kyle, and San Marcos.

“What’s so unique and special about this task force is that they all volunteered to help, we didn’t have to require anyone to participate,” said San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens. “They all have a selfless spirit and immediately stepped up to assist with this important effort to help protect one of the most vulnerable populations in our communities.”

The task began when fire departments were asked to carry out Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to test all nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19.

“On May 11, fire departments statewide received a request from the Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to conduct a 17-page survey of all the long-term care facilities in our jurisdiction,” said San Marcos Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner. “This request was updated on Wednesday, May 13 to include COVID testing in all licensed nursing facilities. We began working on it immediately with the goal to protect and serve the identified, at-risk community.”

To complete this undertaking, a county-wide task force was established and met for the first time on Thursday, May 14. The task force consists of personnel from: San Marcos Fire Department, Kyle Fire Department, Buda Fire Department, North Hays Fire Rescue, South Hays Fire Department, San Marcos Emergency Management, Hays County Health Department, and San Marcos Hays County Emergency Medical Services. 

“When we received the orders from the Governor’s Office, we knew it would be a tall order, but I knew that if anyone could make it happen, it would be our amazing professionals from throughout Hays County,” said Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp. “They put together an efficient and effective plan in less than one week and have carried it out flawlessly.”

Prior to beginning the testing on Monday, the task force worked with Dr. Katherine Remick, the San Marcos Hays County EMS Medical Director, to develop protocols to safely and efficiently complete the testing. 

All task force members were required to submit to a COVID-19 test to ensure all team members were negative and not able to spread any infection to those being tested. While conducting the testing, personnel wore Tyvek suits, disposable medical gowns, two layers of medical gloves, N95 face masks, face shields, booties and head coverings. Between every test, one set of gloves and the disposable apron were changed. 

Hays County Local Health Department Epidemiologist Eric Schneider said, “The goal of the stringent protective clothing requirements was not only to keep the first responders safe, but to also keep all the residents and facility employees safe as well.”

Most tests are being returned in 48 hours; however, 72 hours is the expectation. All of the testing is being paid by the State directly to the private lab. The City is eligible for reimbursement for other expenses from TDEM, through the CARES Act.

For media inquiries, contact communicationsinfo@sanmarcostx.gov. For information about Hays County, contact kim.hilsenbeck@co.hays.tx.us. 

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