SAN ANTONIO – More than 1,200 members of the Texas National Guard will fan out across the state and set up two dozen mobile COVID-19 testing sites, Governor Greg Abbott announced Monday.
The first two sites — in Floresville and Fredericksburg — are in the San Antonio area. Each site will be able to test about 150 people per day.
Abbott did not specify why the locations were chosen, but Floresville is the site of a coronavirus outbreak at a state-run veteran’s home where at least 10 residents and five staff members have tested positive. A 75-year-old resident died from COVID-19 last week after being infected at the facility. Some staff told KSAT last week that they were not able to get tested despite symptoms and the potential exposure.
Abbott said a total of 23 other teams, which are comprised of doctors and soldiers, would be deployed to additional locations that need assistance with testing across the state, as identified by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“The State of Texas continues to expand our COVID-19 testing capacities and ensure that communities across the Lone Star State have access to the resources they need,” said Abbott in an emailed statement.
The announcement comes as Texas has lagged behind other states in testing per capita. As of Monday, about 190,000 people out of the state’s 29 million had been tested, according to the state health department.
Still, Abbott has pushed forward with his plan to reopen the state. On Friday, the Governor announced that school buildings would remain closed for the rest of the academic year but that state parks would reopen, non-essential businesses could open for delivery and curbside and that some medical procedures that had been paused could move forward.
Abbott also said he hopes to open other parts of the economy by the end of April but has said testing would be key to know whether that’s a viable option.
“COVID-19 testing is a crucial mission in our fight against this virus,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, adjutant general of Texas, in an email statement. “We are proud to support our partners TDEM and DSHS in bringing this critical capacity to areas in need of medical support.”
According to Abbott, more than 2,500 members of the state national guard are working throughout Texas to fight against the pandemic.
“In working with local communities they have helped manufacture over four million pieces of personal protective equipment, conducted over 9,000 COVID-19 tests, and helped distribute food and supplies with local food banks to thousands of Texans each day,” the press release stated.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.
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