Testing, sanitizing and emergency food benefits increased as Texas entered its third month of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Notably, Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement concerning an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Amarillo, where more than 700 cases were reported on Saturday, May 16.
The report came after the governor’s Surge Response Teams conducted site surveys and testing in high-risk areas, including meat-packing facilities in the Amarillo area. Two more weeks of testing would be conducted in high-risk areas, Abbott said.
Abbott on Wednesday, May 13, announced that Texas National Guard disinfection teams operating in coordination with the Texas Department of State Health Services have been deployed to help limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus in nursing homes.
Major Gen. Tracy R. Norris, adjutant general of Texas National Guard, said each of the six teams on duty across the state received training from the Texas Military Department’s 6th Civil Support Team, which specializes in manmade and natural disaster assessment and rapid response in hazardous environments.
The Texas National Guard also fights the COVID-19 pandemic by providing personal protective equipment manufacturing support, food bank support, mobile COVID-19 testing and points of distribution for essential items.
Last week, as more Texans increased public activities, official data showed COVID-19 is not contained. On Sunday, May 17, cumulative figures posted by State Health Services showed that some 47,784 people in Texas had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 1,336 deaths resulting from the influenza-like virus had been confirmed.
Order: Test nursing homes
Gov. Abbott on May 11 directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to test 100% of residents and staff in Texas nursing homes.
The collaboration of those agencies, Abbott said, would “ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained.”
Food benefits announced
Gov. Abbott on May 12 announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in food benefits through the federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program to families with children who have temporarily lost access to free or discounted school meals due to COVID-19-related school closures.
The program, to be administered through the state health department, the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Education Agency, provides a one-time benefit of $285 per child.
The benefit can be used in the same way as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits to pay for groceries.
Visit hhs.texas.gov/pebt to learn more.
Hospitals receive antiviral
The Texas Department of State Health Services, with U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, on May 12 distributed 1,200 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir to hospitals to treat patients with COVID-19.
Clinical trials of the antiviral drug reportedly have sped up by several days the recovery time of COVID-19 patients.
Remdesivir was provided to the DSHS by the federal government from a supply donated by Gilead, the manufacturer.
Hospitals in these cities received shipments of remdesivir: Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Laredo, Lubbock, McAllen, Odessa, San Antonio, Tyler and Waco.