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PFLUGERVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT RACES TO ASSURE STATE-REQUIRED NURSING HOME TESTS FOR COVID-19

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

 

PFLUGERVILLE, MAY 18, 2020 – Thanks to early preparation and coordination, the Pflugerville Fire Department is well-positioned to accomplish state-ordered COVID-19 testing of staff and residents in nursing homes within Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2.

Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 is the local government that provides fire protection and emergency medical response to more than 140,000 people in about 100 square miles of northeastern Travis County. It funds and operates the Pflugerville Fire Department.

On May 11, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to develop a plan to test nursing home staff and residents. One of the agencies, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, contacted fire departments across the state and instructed them to do the testing by May 25.

Dan Berger, PFD’s manager of Risk Reduction, said that the Fire Department has been working with local nursing homes since March to assure they have the resources they need to avoid becoming coronavirus “hot-spots.”

“From the earliest reports of COVID-19, we knew that nursing homes presented substantial opportunities for spreading the virus,” Berger said. “The elderly and those with underlying health concerns are the most vulnerable to the disease.”

Since March, the Fire Department’s monitoring and support included weekly status checks with administrators at the nursing homes. The Fire Department was able to identify sources of personal protection equipment for the homes’ staff and keep up-to-date on tests conducted on staff and residents.

Berger said the Fire Department recognized that the nursing homes are licensed facilities that were already making required reports to the Texas Department of State Health Services and Austin Public Health. “We were making our calls to serve as a resource, not to become a burden [on the homes],” he said.

When the state order came down, Pflugerville Fire Department had already built strong relationships with the nursing homes to see the testing gets done quickly.

Berger said that he’s confident one nursing home will be able to administer the tests on its own.

Another may need more support from the Fire Department to meet the May 25 deadline. “We’ll do whatever we need to do,” Berger said, “We want the testing to be efficient and effective.”

The tests, using nasal swabs, can be challenging to administer and require attention to detail as tests are labeled and sent to labs for processing.

Should Pflugerville Fire Department firefighters and EMTs be called upon to conduct the tests, Fire Chief Ron Moellenberg said their skills are more than equal to the task.

“This type of testing is not something we normally do,” the chief said, “But all our operational staff members are trained as emergency medical technicians, and many are paramedics, the most advanced level. We can do this.”

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For more information, please visit www.pflugervillefire.org.