AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin announced Monday it's creating "isolation facilities" for nursing home patients that have tested positive for coronavirus.
The licensed nursing facilities -- one in Travis County and one in Williamson County -- will be for seniors who do not need to be hospitalized and for those who have been discharged. The City did not release the exact locations for each facility.
"They're in very good locations within the county," Dr. Liam Fry, leader of the Austin Public Health Task Force for Nursing Homes, said. "I don't want to mention specifically because we want to give those facilities the opportunity to notify their staff and make arrangements prior to being operational. Once it is operational, it will be public knowledge."
The facilities will have nearly 100 total beds -- 60 in one and 40 in the other -- and will give patients a "secure place to recover while keeping other nursing home residents and staff safe," the City said.
Fry said the admission of patients to the COVID-19 facility would be decided on an individual basis after consultation by the facility medical director and an evaluation has been performed on each individual patient. Fry added the City would preserve people's right to choice as much as possible but will still have to balance it with the public health mandate.
Each facility will be operated by licensed staff, including certain restrictions. For example, staff will only be allowed to enter the facility they work at and not the other, according to Fry.
One of the facilities is expected to open soon, and will house two nursing home patients who tested positive for coronavirus last week, the City said. The City will also provide personal protective equipment to each facility, according to Fry.
Fry said hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been modest in the Austin area, but added that models from the University of Texas project a "significant increase" in hospitalized patients in the coming weeks.
COVID-19 poses significant risks to vulnerable populations, including senior citizens and those who have underlying health conditions. In the Austin area, there are about 132,000 people 65 and older, which is about 10% of the population, according to the City of Austin.
“Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin-Travis County. “It is critical that you do your part to slow the spread of this virus.”
Fry suggested the public should assume coronavirus is in all communities across the county and should take precautions accordingly. The City has a map of coronavirus cases broken down by ZIP code here.
WATCH FULL PRESS CONFERENCE HERE: Coronavirus in Austin, Texas: How is the city protecting nursing home patients with COVID-19?
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