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At Least 1 In 5 Texas COVID-19 Deaths Linked To Nursing Home Residents, Staff

Photo by Ulrich Joho on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0: https://bit.ly/35VCYSB

More than 40% of Texas' and 30% of U.S. coronavirus-related deaths have been residents or staff members at long-term elder care facilities. 

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. 

Four additional San Antonio nursing homes reported outbreaks this week and more than half of confirmed cases were asymptomatic. 

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?


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call  833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, May 14.

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.