Coronavirus testing to be expanded at Texas supported living centers


Eleanor Dearman, El Paso Times
Published 2:55 p.m. MT May 21, 2020 | Updated 3:17 p.m. MT May 21, 2020


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All patients, residents and staff at Texas’ inpatient psychiatric hospitals and state supported living centers will be tested for COVID-19.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to expand testing at the 23 facilities across the state.

“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 statement. 

As of May 20, the commission was reporting 161 patients and residents in the facilities had tested positive for the virus. Of those, 107 individuals had recovered. Fewer than 10 have died because of the virus. 

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El Paso Psychiatric Center Friday, April 17, in El Paso. (Photo: BRIANA SANCHEZ/EL PASO TIMES)

More: El Paso Psychiatric Center: Coronavirus spread ‘like wildfire’ among staff, patients

Texas has 10 state hospitals that offer inpatient mental health care, as well as 13 supported living centers that provide care to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

There are roughly 4,700 patients and residents at the facilities, as well as 18,000 employees.

The supported living centers are located in Abilene, Austin, Brenham, Corpus Christi, Denton, El Paso, Lubbock, Lufkin, Mexia, Richmond, Rio Grande, San Angelo and San Antonio.

State hospitals in Texas include the El Paso Psychiatric Center, where in April the virus was described as having “spread like wildfire” among patients and staff. 

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Those at the facilities had been being tested if they showed symptoms of the virus or had possible exposure to the virus, according to a news release from Abbott’s office.

“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,” the news release states. 

There are restrictions on visitors to the facilities and employees must be screened before entering.

The expanded testing comes after Abbott earlier this month directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to test all residents and staff in nursing homes statewide. 

Eleanor Dearman may be reached at 361-244-0047;; @EllyDearman on Twitter.

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