San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens holds a vile included in a COVID-19 test kit. Hays County firefighters and emergency personnel have been tasked with test nursing homes around the county. Daily Record photos by Lance Winter
County task force triumphs in testing
Hays County firefighters and emergency personnel are a model for efficiency as they have perfected a system to test almost 100 people an hour for the past 5 days for the coronavirus.
A task force, consisting of members of the San Marcos, Kyle, Buda and South Hays Fire Departments; North Hays Fire Rescue; San Marcos Emergency Management; Hays County Health Department; and San Marcos/Hays County EMS, have administered more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests at six long-term health care facilities in the county.
What’s impressive about the enormous feat, is that it began just 12 days ago — May 11 — and concludes today. Equally as astonishing is that all the 18 testing personnel, and their eight-member support teams, volunteered to assist in the undertaking.
“What’s so unique and special about this task force is they all volunteered to help,” San Marcos Fire Chief Les Stephens said. “They all have that selfless spirit and immediately stepped up to assist with this important effort to help protect the most vulnerable 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.
Members of the county's task force prepare to administer tests at a local nursing home.
In an update provided to the San Marcos City Council on May 14, Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp said that the state didn’t have enough capacity to conduct testing and was turning to local governments.
“On May 11, Nim Kidd, Chief of (the Texas Division of Emergency Management), through the (Texas Commission on Fire Protection), charged us to conduct a 17-page survey of all the long-term care facilities in our jurisdiction,” San Marcos Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said. “Beginning Tuesday, May 12, we conducted the survey for all these facilities, and then the request was updated to include COVID-19 testing in all licensed nursing facilities.”
Kistner said there are six nursing facilities in Hays County located in Dripping Springs, Wimberley, Kyle and San Marcos. Due to the overwhelming number of personnel and resources needed to accomplish testing, a countywide task force was established.
“Overall, more than 1,000 employees and residents will be tested in these facilities,” Kistner added. “Most tests are being returned in 48 hours; however, 72 hours is the expectation. All 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.”