EL PASO, Texas -- In mid-May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed that local fire departments assist health departments to test all residents and staff at nursing homes across the state.
But the El Paso Fire Department was already well-involved in the testing efforts here before the announcement was made.
There are a total of 2,700 residents and staff in El Paso County's 21 senior care facilities. As of Tuesday afternoon, 18 of those facilities had been tested.
EPFD Assistant Chief Robert Arvizu told ABC-7, "We're actually doing the swabbing of the residents and staff to provide the specimens for laboratory tests."
There are a total of 29 of the department's nearly 900 firefighters assigned to the testing effort.
Each care facility had the option to arrange for its own testing or get tested by the El Paso Health Department, the option they all selected.
Before testing begins, each facility needs to register every resident and staff member to be tested. Once the fire department arrives, each person's identity is verified and then they are tested.
For staff not there at the time of testing, they are asked to get tested at one of the area's drive-thru testing sites.
The fire department did not specify if they received any positive test results, but as ABC-7 reported on Sunday, the Mountain View Health and Rehabilitation nursing facility at 1600 Murchison had a number of positive cases and the Texas National Guard was called in to sanitize their facility.
In addition, the health department disclosed there have been a total of 216 cases confirmed so far at elderly facilities in the county during the pandemic.
"The health pepartment is shaping their protocols if necessary to ensure if they do have any positive patients, they can isolate them, not only from other residents but also the equipment used by the staff to service clients and be able to have active decontamination processes," said Arvizu
The fire department said it expected to be finished testing all 21 facilities by Wednesday. At that point, EPFD will then move on to testing people at rescue missions, shelters and migrant facilities.