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'We have to do better': 1 nursing home has more than 35 residents with COVID-19, Austin leaders say after updating orders

The updated orders said that if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a facility, all patients, staff and next of kin must be notified.

AUSTIN, Texas — After updating control orders for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Austin-Travis County interim public health authority said one nursing home facility has more than 35 residents with coronavirus.

Austin leaders said on April 20 if there is a confirmed case in a facility, all patients, staff and next of kin must be notified. Also, in the event of a cluster at a facility involving two or more patients, the facility must: 

  • Restrict receiving new or returning patients into the facility until the facility has been cleared by Austin Public Health (APH); and
  • Make all clinical staff, non-clinical staff and contractors available for testing, if requested

A strike team of additional personnel and equipment may also be deployed at the facility until the outbreak is controlled as determined by APH.

According to Austin-Travis County, as of April 22, there have been eight outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, with 67 staff and 96 residents infected and 15 resident deaths related to COVID-19, and at least one health care worker death.

Austin health officials said one nursing home facility has more than 35 residents who have been infected with COVID-19, "and a number of staff as well." Health leaders did not release the name of the facility.

"We have to do better with regard to nursing homes," said Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County interim health authority. "We are committed to continuing to evaluate the process, enhancing our methods and looking for ways to do that."


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KVUE asked Dr. Escott why Austin refuses to release information on locations of nursing homes with COVID-19 outbreaks. Escott said the laws regarding privacy is going to differ from state to state, and that personal health privacy laws in Texas laws prevent them from releasing that information.

"It has to be for a public health need and not just a desire to have it," Escott said.

WATCH: COVID-19 guidelines updated for nursing homes, facilities 

Escott added that he also ordered testing of the entire staff at one facility and is expecting results soon.

All individuals entering nursing home facilities must wear a mask or cloth face covering. All employees and contractors who require contact with residents within six feet must utilize the CDC recommended Personal Protective Equipment for COVID-19. Only visitors providing critical assistance should be permitted into the facility, and the facility may not admit anyone with a temperature of 99.6◦F or above.

RELATED: Austin Public Health investigating 8 senior living communities, downtown Salvation Army facility as coronavirus clusters

"It is critical that we continue to look for new avenues to protect our most vulnerable populations," said Escott. "We cannot safely discuss reopening before we have successfully cocooned these vulnerable populations. We must continue to look for additional personal protective equipment, more rapid testing and increased staffing for nursing homes and long-term care facilities."

WATCH: Defenders: COVID-19 in Texas nursing homes


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