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Denton officials say 39 residents tested positive for COVID-19 at a living facility for people with intellectual disabilities

"This is an outbreak of a vulnerable population," the Denton County Public Health Director said.

Updated at 6:08 p.m. with additional information. 

Denton County health officials reported 54 new COVID-19 cases Friday, including 31 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus at a Denton living facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The county now has 137 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, including the fast spread of the disease at the Denton State Supported Living Center.  

Thursday 8 people at the facility had tested positive, by Friday that total number was 39. 

Denton County Judge Andy Eads said new cases have also been recorded in Argyle, Corinth, Roanoke, and Krum. 

"This disease and its spread are not strictly to our urbanized areas but it is spreading county-wide," he said.

Most of the cases at the living facility have been reported among residents. Two employees have tested positive but one of them does not count in the Denton totals because the employee lives in another county, officials said.

Widespread testing began at the facility Wednesday. 

Officials said 140 residents, most at risk, were tested that day. At least another 100 residents and employees were tested Friday. 

About 400 residents live at the center and it employs more than 1,400 people.

Testing is ongoing, officials said.

"We’re trying to assess exposure and risk with limited supplies and so the limited supplies are limiting that testing, and yet, we are testing anyone who is symptomatic," said Dr. Matt Richardson, the county's public health director.

Health officials haven't received results from all the testing done just yet. 

"We do anticipate there may be more positives," Richardson said. "We don’t have a way to quantify that at this time."

Officials believe the cases at the living facility are due to community spread, because of visitors or staff coming into the complex.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Friday morning that it is taking extra steps to protect the residents and staff at the facility. 

Texas health officials say, effective immediately, up to four ambulances will be stationed at the living facility. This will provide transportation for residents who might require hospitalization because of COVID-19.

Officials said residents will be transported to hospitals throughout the county so that no single hospital becomes overwhelmed by the influx of new patients. 

Denton Mayor Chris Watts also said that the emergency medical crews stationed at the center will provide on-site care to those residents that do not necessarily need to go to the hospital. 

"Everybody’s worked so diligently to make sure that the residents out at that living center have the best medical care that they can be getting for their unique needs," Watts said.

RELATED: As positive COVID-19 cases grow, Denton living facility for people with disabilities tests 140 residents in 1 day

Eads said he understands the concerns of the families who have loved ones in the center. 

"These are valuable members of our society. We care for them. They are in good hands," he said. "These last couple of weeks we have been working to provide a clear plan of action to keep them safe."

Denton County commissioners held an emergency meeting Friday morning, where they discussed concerns regarding the cases at the living facility. 

Residents who test positive for the novel coronavirus and do not require hospitalization will be self-isolated and stay in "dedicated homes" on site. 

Patients who have been discharged from the hospital will also stay in these homes, according to Texas health officials. 

Visitation and on-campus events at state-supported living centers have been suspended since March 13. 

RELATED: 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Denton facility for people with disabilities

RELATED: Families struggle to stay in contact with loved ones in nursing homes during COVID-19 outbreak

On March 16, the Denton facility started to check its employees and all essential visitors for fever and respiratory illness symptoms before they entered the facility, officials said. 

Staff at the living facility working with sick residents are being supplied with personal protective equipment and are following all CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The same safety measures are being applied to any residents who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, according to HHSC officials. 

On Friday, the county's stay at home order was extended to March 31. County commissioners are slated to meet again Tuesday to discuss whether the order will be extended further. 

"We’re asking for the people of Denton County to share our viewpoint and to be partners with us and take individual responsibility," Eads said. "Government cannot solve all the problems. This is going to require individual responsibility for you as an individual and you as a household to help provide social distancing."

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