Texas Emergency Management Division Touts Testing and Trust Methodology to Slowly Ease Employees Back to the Workplace

Gloria Salinas, Managing Director, Economic Development

As the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) ramps up COVID-19 testing initiatives across the state, fostering trust and transparency among businesses and their employees will be key in the state’s effort to slowly reopen the economy, said Nim Kidd, Chief of TDEM.

Kidd led a discussion, along with Hilti North America’s Head of Human Resources Alison Braman, and Senior Vice President and General Manager Jason Janning, on best practices and procedures for safely returning to the workplace, and how the Governor’s Surge Response Teams are working to control the outbreak in hot spots across the state.

“It’s going to have to be trust and transparency between the employer and the employee,” Kidd said in the DRC’s first Responsible Return to Work series call on May 19. “The good business practices we hear about building the culture of transparency and trust is going to be the key in getting us out of this.”

Here are four key takeaways from TDEM’s COVID-19 efforts:

Texas is Rebuilding the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Supply Chain

As the pandemic spread around the world, the PPE supply chain was severely damaged due to the high demand of masks, gloves, and other medical supplies needed to combat COVID-19.

“We brought in world leaders to Austin to staff the State Emergency Operations Center and look for PPE internationally,” Kidd said. “We are trying to get the state out of the private sector supply chain business as quick as possible in order to get the private sector back up and running as soon as possible.”

Today, the Governor’s Supply Chain Strike Force has sourced more than 40 million masks, and another 30 million masks have been provided to the private sector distributors through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Project Air Bridge. The FEMA supply will go back into the normal supply chain to assist the private sector, Kidd said.

People are the Focus of the State’s Surge Response Teams

“When we look across the state at all of the data that is being compiled, what we find is that there are three focus areas where we are trying to extinguish the fire, if you will,” Kidd said. “Those are our nursing homes, our jails, and our meatpacking plants.”

Most of the state’s COVID-19 exposures have come from meatpacking plants and nursing homes, Kidd said. Texas has more than 360 known meatpacking plants in the state, with dozens located inside inner cities, and about 1,220 licensed nursing homes.

The Governor activated the Texas Army National Guard to create facility disinfection teams which wrap around the Surge Response Teams that go into nursing homes, prisons, and meatpacking plants to test and trace cases.

“In every place that we’ve sent the Governor’s Surge Team – whether it’s been a nursing home, prison or jail, or meatpacking plant – within days, we clearly see the scope of the problem,” Kidd said. “We know how many are positive and negative at that point in time, and we employ strategies on those that are negative to stay healthy and on those that are positive to stay away and not infect others. When we send our surge teams in, things calm down within seven to 10 days.”

Kidd said his team’s goal is to have all employees and residents in the state’s 1,220 licensed nursing homes tested by the beginning of next week.

Testing Sites in Texas Can be Located on an Interactive Map

There are more than 600 COVID-19 testing locations in Texas.

Today, more than 1,200 Texas Army and Air Guard members are helping with drive-through testing across the state and in rural areas.

For information on Texas COVID-19 testing sites, visit the Interactive Map for TX COVID-19 Test Collection Sites.

Texas is Partnering to Activate More Lab Space and Increase Capability to Combat the Virus

“A lot of laboratory networks across the state are run by the private sector, not by the public,” Kidd said. “The government has less than 10 percent of the laboratory network capacity across the state.”

The state’s Emergency Management Division is working closely with university and health care laboratories to elevate COVID-19 needs and capabilities in public labs, while also keeping a close relationship with national private sector labs, Kidd said.

“Going forward, as we continue to open Texas, as we go through this together, I think we need to understand that there might be some hot spots that pop up,” Kidd said. “I want you to know that we put together a team across the state that will quickly respond to those areas, isolate those areas, make sure we know who is sick and who is not sick, and make sure we have the right health care there to help get them healthy as soon as possible.”