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Some Texas nursing homes are self-reporting COVID-19 cases

Texas Health and Human Services Commission still refuses to say which nursing homes have coronavirus, citing personal health privacy laws.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Health and Human Services made a change Friday to the way the agency reports cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

That information is now online and breaks down the data by regions.

But the agency still won’t tell people which facilities have cases of the virus, citing privacy laws.

“We felt like the sharing of information, clarity about next steps, telling the truth even when it’s difficult, these are the acts that would help us help people face uncertainty better,” President and CEO of The Wesleyan Mark Lenhard said.

Lenhard runs The Wesleyan, a nursing home in Georgetown. He said the company decided to publish updates about COVID-19 in the facility starting in March.

To date, they have reported two workers and one resident have tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott says all Texas nursing home residents, staff must be tested for COVID-19

“I think we stay south of providing health information that would identify someone,” Lenhard said. “But letting people know the results are negative, that provides reassurance.”

Caraday Health is another nursing home parent company publishing updates about cases of the virus inside its facilities.

Caraday has confirmed 82 residents and 44 team members with the virus in multiple Texas nursing homes.

“Transparency is a cornerstone of our organizational culture,” a Caraday spokesperson said in a statement.

“The community needs to know when there’s virus in the community as we start to open the state back up,” American Association of Retired Persons of Texas representative Amanda Fredriksen said.

RELATED: Federal government to name nursing homes with coronavirus cases

Fredriksen’s group joins the growing list of lawyers, lawmakers and other states saying privacy laws don’t apply to the names of nursing homes.

“Nobody is asking for them to release the individual names of people who are infected. That’s what privacy laws are about protecting, and no one is asking them to do that.”

The state asked the Attorney General’s Office for a ruling on whether it has to name facilities with cases of the virus. KVUE is still waiting for a response.

But Lenhard hopes the state and other nursing homes release more details soon.

“I would like to see all the transparency that can take place that does not violate anybody’s private health information, so that we can be proactive,” Lenhard said.

The federal government plans to start publishing the names of nursing homes with coronavirus cases by the end of the month, according to a recent memo from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

RELATED: 'We can't wait' | Austin funds help for local nursing homes

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