As part of a statewide effort to test nursing home residents and staff, the Frisco Fire Department will oversee coronavirus testing at local facilities in the coming weeks. The department will also serve as the collection hub for testing data from all other Texas fire departments that are doing the same.

Chief Mark Piland said testing at the city’s nursing facilities and assisted living facilities for COVID-19 will begin May 21. With 18 such facilities in Frisco, Piland estimated the department will be testing about 1,300 residents and 750 staff members.

“That is our most vulnerable population in this city and any city—these nursing facilities,” Piland told Frisco City Council during its May 19 meeting. “I think it's important that we're part of the initiative to go in and make sure that we identify positive cases.”

The Frisco Fire chief said members of the department’s COVID testing team will be screened to ensure they are free of the coronavirus before going into the facilities. Identifying residents who test positive will allow management at the facilities to separate those with the virus from patients who test negative, he said.

The city’s Emergency Operations Center will have dedicated staff taking calls from fire departments across the state to collect the testing data, Piland said.

“The testing that we do in the nursing facilities and the additional help that we're giving them on data collection is funded by the state,” Piland said. “I feel real proud of the fact that they had the confidence in our department and our city to take on this task.”

Piland said he expects the city to be collecting data from fire departments for at least the next two months.

“We're good partners with the state in terms of emergency management,” Piland said. “And I think that's one of the reasons why they leaned on us to get the job done.”

He also told council the testing could lead to an increase in positive cases throughout the state.

“Anytime you have increased testing, you have increased numbers, so we will probably see some increased positive cases in the state and also possibly in our counties,” Piland said. “Obviously, some of these patients will be non-symptomatic, but nevertheless will possibly test positive.”