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Firefighters begin coronavirus testing at nursing homes in Comal County

New Braunfels and Bulverde Spring Branch Fire Departments are carrying out the assignment.

COMAL COUNTY, Texas — About one-third of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. were connected to nursing homes, according to new data. More than 15,000 nursing homes submitted the information to the government.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott wants all nursing homes tested. He said it’s to “ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained."

In Comal County, the New Braunfels and Bulverde Spring Branch Fire Departments are carrying out the assignment.

“We received a request from the Texas Division of Emergency Management to assist testing of all nursing homes and nursing home staff within the city of New Braunfels,” said New Braunfels Fire Chief Patrick O’Connell during a press conference Wednesday.

NBFD crews have already been manning a drive-thru testing site. Chief O’Connell says they are well prepared to handle more than 1,000 Coronavirus tests.

“Our personnel have been trained to administer those tests,” said Chief O’Connell. “Our responders administer the swab, package the test and it gets shipped off to the appropriate lab.”

Fire crews previously tested about 400 nursing home residents and staff. They expect to conduct 1,300 more tests by Friday.

“These are among the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Cheryl Fraser, the Comal County Director of Public Health. “Conducting this testing will help give us a better picture of whether COVID-19 is in our nursing facilities.”

The testing is being done at four long-term care facilities in New Braunfels and one in Bulverde. A fifth facility agreed to have its own tests completed.

Assisted living and standalone memory care facilities are not included in the Governor’s order.

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