Texas nursing homes not ready to open doors to visitors yet
Following last week’s announcement that Texas Gov. Abbott had lifted some of the visitation restrictions on nursing homes in this state, EANH Administrator Terrell Thomas reported the news to residents and their families, along with guidelines for designated “essential family caregivers,” who will be allowed inside after receiving safety training.
This week, the other shoe dropped.
Hemphill County Hospital District CEO Christy Francis reported that following that news, she received information on what is required to start those visitations. “The state hasn’t even written all the rules, yet,” Francis reported. “They have training requirements that they haven’t event written the curriculum for, yet.”
That was disappointing news, given that it has been nearly six months since many of the nursing home residents’ families have been able to visit their loved ones face-to-face.
It was frustrating to Francis, too. “These are things we can do,” she said. “We can train the family caregivers to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) properly. We can do that, but it has to be [the state’s] program.”
Further complicating the issue is the fact that the family caregiver would have to be tested every two weeks, and practically speaking, they would have to do the rapid test. “If they don’t do the rapid test,” Francis said, “they may have to spend three days just waiting for the result. And that is three of the 14 days wasted before they have to be tested again.”
The rapid test is not cheap, either. Even if the hospital decides to provide them at their cost—which is under consideration—it would cost $100/person for one rapid test. “Who’s going to pay for those? If they have insurance, how many times will the insurance company let you file for a COVID test when you have no exposure or symptoms? Then it has to come out of your pocket.”
“The governor came on and gave an update, but had no idea what was left to do,” Francis said. “He made it sound like everybody was ready to open up tomorrow. But there are so many things that have to be worked out before anybody can really open up, and before we can, we have to make sure we have policy and procedures for all of it.”
“I would say it will be at least another two weeks before we can start letting visitors in,” she said.
Francis did say that the hospital district has been able to maintain an ample supply of the rapid tests recently. “When we order them now, they ship right away,” she said. “But if I had to order 400-500 at a time, it might take longer. We’re ordering about 150/month now, and trying to keep 400 in stock.”
A new 15-minute rapid test is now being deployed in Texas, according to The Dallas Morning News, and will be offered at a fraction of the cost. “We ordered 1,200 of those so we wouldn’t have to buy the others,” Francis said, “but they are on back order.”
Another issue arose the week. “We’ve had a new positive this week, and we don’t know where we stand,” Francis said. The guidelines indicated that two weeks would have to pass with no new positives, she explained, “but they didn’t make it clear. The information states that as long as the resident being seen doesn’t have COVID, but it doesn’t say there can’t be COVID in the building.”
Some family members of EANH residents have already gotten their COVID-19 tests in order to be cleared as essential caretakers. Given the confusion that now exists, it appears they may have wasted both their time and money.
During the last week (Sept. 24-30), the Hemphill County Hospital District reported nine new positive COVID-19 cases in Hemphill County residents, and 13 new cases in out-of-county residents. Included in those numbers were two new COVID-19 positive tests at Canadian High School—bringing the total their to 12 cases overall—and one new positive test of a staff member at Edward Abraham Nursing Home.
Rural counties in U.S. set record for new COVID-19 cases
According to a report in the Daily Yonder released Wednesday, the number of Covid-19 cases reported in rural counties climbed by more than 61,000 last week, setting a record for new infections in a single week and placing half of all rural counties on the White House’s red-zone list.
The number of new infections in rural America was 14% higher last week compared to the previous period, according to the Daily Yonder’s analysis. Since mid-September, the weekly number of new infections in rural counties has climbed by 48%.
A record-breaking 990 of the nation’s 1,976 rural counties were on the red-zone list last week, meaning they had an infection rate of 100 or more new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 in population.