Few Residents of Nursing Home Where Man Died Will Be Tested for Coronavirus

'For most of those folks, they can just wait and watch,' health director says

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Tarrant County has no plans to test everyone at an Arlington nursing home where a man died of coronavirus, according to the county’s health director, despite assurances from Gov. Greg Abbott that “every single person” there would be tested.

At the Texas Masonic Retirement Center in Arlington, residents remain in isolation.

On Sunday, 77-year-old Patrick James became the first person in North Texas to die of the coronavirus.

In a statewide address on Wednesday, Abbott said federal health officials had recommended to “test every single person at that retirement center.”

"Until we test everyone in this facility, nobody knows who may or may not have exposure to Covid-19,” the governor said.

"That is underway but only for appropriate individuals who really need it,” Tarrant County Health Department director Dr. Vinny Taneja said in an interview Thursday.

Those who really need it are those who get sick, he said.

“For most of those folks, they can just wait and watch,” Taneja said. “Will anything develop? If you turn symptomatic, yes, we will test you, but usually, they are not at any significant risk."

A spokeswoman for the retirement center, Rhenda Gray, said they would welcome the testing but noted only James and his wife had been tested so far.

And tests are still in limited supply.

Tarrant County's health department serves 33 counties, with a population of well over 2 million, and it has fewer than 1,800 tests.

"What we've been told is that is not a shortage,” Taneja said. “If we need a resupply, we will get that resupply."

With strict requirements on who qualifies, the Tarrant County Health Department has tested only a few hundred people so far.

"I know the general expectation of the public is that there is going to be widespread testing of everybody. That's not usually how it works,” Taneja said.

Some hospitals and clinics in North Texas have set up drive-through stations, where people can get tested right in their cars.

Dallas County announced plans to set up its own.

But so far, not in Tarrant County.

"There's been a lot of talk about drive-thru testing and we're in conversations with various entities pulling that together,” he said. “Hopefully soon some of this will become a reality."

Taneja cautioned with more testing, there will almost certainly be more positive results in the coming days.

Tarrant County announced 10 new cases of coronavirus Thursday for a total of 19. Fort Worth and Arlington had the most with five each.

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