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Gov. Greg Abbott recently directed local health institutions to test 100% of residents and staff in Texas nursing homes and Cooke County nursing homes are on board for the impending testing.

Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to test 100% of residents and staff. Renaissance Care Center Executive Director Cyndy Gideon said the Gainesville nursing facility absolutely plans on complying.

“We’ll have someone come in and do the required testing for everyone in the facility,” Gideon said. “We’re not having trouble ironing it out. It will be conducted one day next week. I’m just not sure what day. We’re committed to keeping everyone safe and I think we’ve done an exceptional job.”

Gideon said she didn’t have an opinion on the testing “one way or the other.”

“We’re going to follow all mandates and we’ll continue to do so,” Gideon said. “It’s all for the safety of the patients and my staff. We’re going to continue to strict protocols of the CDC and the state government. We’re still restricting all visitors. Patients are still safest in the facility and the goal is always to keep the staff safe as well.”

CEO Kevin Warren of the Texas Health Care Association issued a statement following Abbott’s announcement Monday, May 11, about nursing home testing.

“THCA is extremely pleased that our tireless workforce and the residents in their care are finally receiving priority testing,” Warren said in a written statement to media outlets. “The population in our facilities are most at-risk to the worst impacts of COVID-19 and their staff are at personal risk as well. While testing will be essential for our fight against COVID-19, we have to ensure we have the necessary resources to prepare for what those results may bring.”

Warren added in the statement that the THCA has seen with expanded testing that everyone needs to be prepared for a higher number of cases and facilities identified.

“As a result, this expansion will be additional burden and pressure on the challenges of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) access and on a staffing shortage that is already of significant concern,” he said

Gideon said the patients at Renaissance Care Center have no cases or symptoms of COVID-19.

“Our patients are doing great and are upbeat,” Gideon said. “They’re getting great food. They’re staying at safe distances and everyone is wearing their masks. We’re just continuing the course.”

Gideon said everyone involved wants things to get back to normal, but they recognize the need for the safety precautions.

“Of course they miss their family, but we still have strict rules with no one leaving the facility,” Gideon said. “They’re safer here because of the precautions we’re taking. Our staff is on high alert and they have to be super safe because they’re coming back to work the next day. I don’t think anything is too much as far as safety precautions do.”

Patrick Driggers, administrator at Pecan Tree Rehab and Healthcare Center, said it can’t hurt to test everyone.

“Various counties are going to be utilizing various fire departments, so the rollout is strategic and well thought out,” Driggers said. “Where’s the negative? If they’re going to allocate us the tests, then by all means. Let’s be sure we don’t have anyone at our facility that [has] COVID-19. There are people that wish they could get tested, so I think it’s a win-win scenario. We’re fortunate that the government is allocating those tests to us. My staff members, myself and our residents will all have peace of mind.”

Driggers said putting safety first will always be the priority for them and he is glad Abbott and the state government are taking action.

“Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed us to make sure we have these tests and is assisting us to make sure we aren’t affecting the population,” Driggers said. “Thus far, the families are understanding and hopeful. Upon the inception of the limited visitation guidelines, there were some that were frustrated, but now two months later, they were more than understanding and hopeful our tests results come back negative.”

Because the coronavirus can be carried with no symptoms, Driggers is glad every step is being taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Someone could be asymptomatic and show no signs and this testing will allow us to identify if anyone is asymptomatic and we can isolate to protect the rest of the population,” Driggers said. “That’s why they’re testing us to make sure there is no potential outbreak.”

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