As nursing homes across the country have become hot spots for the spread of COVID-19, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed state agencies Monday to develop a plan to test all nursing home residents and staff for the novel coronavirus.

Abbott told the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Department of State Health Services to come up with and put into place a plan based on the guidance of Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.

Phil Wilson, acting executive commissioner of Texas Health and Human Services, recently said there are 1,220 nursing homes in the state and on Friday, 243 or approximately 20 percent had reported at least one positive test. At that time there had been 317 deaths reported from those facilities from COVID-19.

Locally, there have been no reported deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes. Grayson County Health Department Director Amanda Ortez said Tuesday that the GHD has not received any reports of positive tests results for COVID-19 for any nursing home staff member or patient in the county.

Grayson County Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers said that the order from the governor’s office is so new at this point that there is still a lot to be worked out. She said, for example, it is not even clear what facilities will be required to do the testing.

In Grayson County, for example, there are a total of 63 individual businesses or agencies that might fall under that requirement. That number includes 15 assisted living facilities, 11 nursing facilities, seven residential facilities for those with physical or mental disabilities, 25 home health agencies and five hospice agencies.

Do all of them fall under the requirement for testing?

Somers said the answer to that is still not clear.

She said that it will likely be a team of state testers that are sent in to do the work and that likely means national guard members like the ones who will be working in the area this week testing at Tyson and Ruiz foods. The testing at the care facilities, she said, is supposed to be done within the next two weeks so answers are going to have to be formulated and plans made quickly to get it done.

Somers said each of those facilities has someone designated to know and report on how many residents and employees that facility has and how many of them have been tested and what those test results have been. Those things are then reported to the state.

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