Editor's Note: Presbyterian Pan American officials on Thursday said that in fact more than 100 students and faculty are still on campus, with some unable to return to their home countries because of travel restrictions or bans put into place by the federal government. It's unclear where those students and faculty will be housed once the collection site opens on Saturday.

Kleberg County commissioners announced Wednesday evening the establishment of a remote off-site clinical collection area for the novel coronavirus at the Presbyterian Pan America FEMA Dome in Kingsville.

The move is a significant step forward for the county as local officials work to begin testing for the disease – known as COVID-19 – that has been the source of concern nationwide as federal and state leaders work to minimize its spread.

A remote testing station has been set up in Nueces County, with Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid working with Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales to allow Kleberg County residents access to it. But Madrid said that Nueces County's location turned away one individual from Kleberg County who had been referred for testing.

He declined to specify who that individual was, citing medical privacy laws. Wednesday's announcement means that Kleberg County and the surrounding areas will not have to rely on Nueces County for assistance.

"This is a huge victory for us tonight," Madrid said at the start of Wednesday's meeting.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website, 1,907 people have been tested in the state, with 83 confirmed cases statewide as of Wednesday morning. There have been three deaths in Texas from COVID-19, two of which were announced on Tuesday with the third coming on Wednesday.

"I made it very clear this a regional attempt to ensure safety in South Texas," Madrid said. "Our doors will be open to any county, any surrounding county that needs assistance."

District 43 State Rep. J.M. Lozano, who helped coordinate communications between Madrid and the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Texas Health and Human Services, celebrated Wednesday's announcement as an example of persistence and governmental cooperation.

He praised Madrid's constant pressure on state officials as a primary reason for why the collection site was able to be established in Kleberg County.

"We may be the only small county in the entire state of Texas that is going to have this," Lozano said in a phone interview with The Kingsville Record Wednesday night.

"This lab – this should be happening in every county," he later added. "We're blessed that we have a county judge who would not take 'No' for an answer."

The new collection site will go live Saturday, with most students from Presbyterian Pan American to be evacuated by Friday, officials said. The Texas Department of State Health Services will be providing nursing staff and supplies for the site, while Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg will assist as well.

How will it work?

If anyone suspects they have symptoms associated with the flu or novel coronavirus, they will be asked to contact their local physicians or contact the emergency room at Christus Spohn Hospital Kleberg, Madrid said. Hospital officials later clarified that they are not asking people to visit the emergency room, but contact them by phone so individuals can be guided through the process.

The idea behind the remote collection site is to limit the opportunities for cross-contamination of hospital staff and patients, officials said.

If that provider feels they match symptoms associated with COVID-19, they will be diverted to the collection site at the Presbyterian Pan American FEMA Dome. The site will not provide testing on demand, Madrid said – they must be evaluated by a physician or medical provider and recommended to the collection site.

Once someone visits the collection site and is evaluated, a nasal swab will be collected. Those samples will then be sent to the Department of State Health Services for testing. Individuals who come in to provide a sample will be required to self-quarantine until results are received, Madrid said.

No one but patients and medical personnel will be allowed within the dome, he added. He was asking for the Kleberg County Sheriff's Hospital or constables provide security to ensure that is the case during the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily hours of operation.

This is a developing story. Check back to www.KingsvilleRecord.com.

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