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Texas agencies working on plans to roll out statewide nursing home testing

An estimated 80,000 people live in Texas nursing homes

BEAUMONT, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott is making it pretty clear that 100 percent of nursing home residents and staff need to be tested. 

An estimated 80,000 people live in Texas nursing homes, and 12News is working to find out how the testing will take place. 

The governor has tasked three state agencies to determine how it will be rolled out. 

Each of the agencies said plans haven't been determined just yet. 

President Donald Trump recently said at a news conference that some governors didn't issue strict enough orders in regard to nursing homes. 

"I will mandate it if you'd like, I think it is important to do and I think frankly some of the governors were very lax with respect to nursing homes."

Now the governor is ordering that all nursing home residents and staff should be tested in the state. 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Division of Emergency Management, and Texas Department of State Health Services are responsible for executing the order. 

12News looked at how widespread the virus is in nursing homes. 

Texas House Representative James Talarico said it's certainly an issue. 

"These facilities have become an epicenters of this pandemic," Talarico said. 

As of May 11, 281 have tested positive for COVID-19 at nursing facilities, and 100 at assisted living facilities.  

425 residents have died due to COVID-19 in nursing facilities and 89 have died from assisted living facilities. 

At a recent city council meeting, Beaumont Public Health Director Sherry Ulmer said 21 residents and 6 employees at College Street Health Care Center tested positive for COVID-19. Five people died. 

At Arden Place of Beaumont, nine residents and 1 staff member tested positive. One person died. 

According to Judge Jeff Branick, Jefferson County hasn't been asked to play a role in the testing. 

He says the state will most likely foot the bill for the testing. 

The money should be reimbursed to the state under the CARES act. 

Kelli Weldon with Texas Health and Human Services sent a statement to 12News, says the three agencies are working to figure out what the next steps are. 

"Our top priority is protecting the health, safety and well-being of the people we serve, including residents and staff in licensed nursing facilities we regulate. We are working closely with DSHS and TDEM to develop and carry out this plan, which builds upon efforts to expand COVID-19 testing in Texas, especially for our most vulnerable Texans," Weldon said. 

Seth Christensen with the Texas Division of Emergency Management says they'll release more about the plans later. 

"TDEM is working closely with our partners at HHSC and DSHS to develop and carry out a plan for testing in all nursing homes across the state, which builds upon efforts to expand COVID-19 testing in Texas. More information about this plan will be available once details are finalized," Christensen said. 

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