COVID-19 preys on vulnerable populations with weakened immune systems and underlying health conditions. Coupled with living quarters that are more about community than privacy, elder care facilities are a hotbed for viral transmission.
Across the country, at least 7,800 long-term care facilities and nursing homes have been affected by the coronavirus, with over 150,000 senior home employees and residents testing positive and 28,100 deaths.
More than 200 assisted living facilities in Texas are now reporting COVID-19 outbreaks, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott this week to order statewide testing for all nursing home residents and staffers and activate the Texas National Guard to help sterilize COVID-19 stricken facilities.
San Antonio health officials have been conducting widespread coronavirus testing at nursing homes with confirmed infections since the city's deadliest outbreak at Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center killed 18 residents and an employee.
What other factors put nursing home residents and staff members at high risk for viral outbreaks? What can be done to prevent additional transmission?
What official guidelines have been issued to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities amid the pandemic, and how are they being enforced? Are facilities sufficiently staffed and do staff members have enough personal protective equipment?
How are state agencies planning to fulfill Gov. Abbott's testing mandate? What are the biggest challenges? Why is the state's transparency about these outbreaks being called into question?
- Dr. Junda Woo, medical director for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District
- Kevin Warren, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association
- Patty Ducayet, state long-term care ombudsman for Texas Health and Human Services
- Amanda Fredriksen, director of advocacy for AARP Texas
- Vianna Davila, reporter with the ProPublica-Texas Tribune investigative unit
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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, May 14.