LA PORTE, Texas — Health officials are investigating a coronavirus outbreak at a health care facility that’s infected residents and staff.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 34 people, both employees and residents, at the LaPorte Healthcare Center have tested positive for COVID-19. The senior living facility has 58 beds, according to government records.
“The facility is currently under strict health control orders that were issued to ensure appropriate infection control and prevention measures are taken,” health officials said.
Senior Living Properties owns LaPorte Healthcare Center and 37 other has Skilled Nursing Facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.
A spokesperson for the company said in a statement that they have set up an isolation unit.
No visitors are allowed, and they put a hold on new admissions. They also contacted residents' emergency contacts.
That spokesperson said staff who have tested positive, but are not showing symptoms, are volunteering to work with residents in that unit.
"LaPorte Healthcare’s team members continue to focus on resident care, and we would like to acknowledge how dedicated they have been throughout this entire situation. We are so thankful," the spokesperson wrote.
Family members are urged to call the center at 281-471-1810 with questions.
The Texas Health Care Association represents long-term care facilities like nursing homes. President and CEO Kevin Warren said it is common for people to work at long-term care facilities and simultaneously work part-time at other facilities. A spokesperson for Senior Living Properties did not comment on if staff there work part-time at other facilities.
Warren said staff get screened when they show up for their shifts, and are asked if they worked or were in contact with locations where a positive COVID-19 test result is recognized. Then, they would need to determine if they worked in direct contact with the person who tested positive, or simply in the same building.
"This is completely unprecedented. We’ve never seen anything like this," said Warren.
Warren said some providers track where their staff works. He said some facilities and even public health entities prohibit people from working at multiple locations.
"There is also a challenge when you start limiting, then they're working diligently to find those additional staff to backfill those shifts that are vacated by people who are no longer working in their facility," said Warren.
Warren called the COVID-19 pandemic "completely unprecedented."
"The leadership at these facilities -- they're responsibility is not only to the residents and the families, but also to the staff to make sure their health and well being is cared for," said Warren. “The men and women caring for these residents – they’re caring for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They so often become like family.”
Warren said residents in long-term care facilities are particularly isolated due to visitor restrictions, and having to maintain social distancing on top of that.
He said health care workers at LTCs are also in dire need of personal protective equipment, and that they need to be prioritized.
Warren said THCA started an Adopt-a-Nursing Home program, where people can send encouraging words to staff.
"The folks in long-term care are some of the most giving, loving people I have ever met," said Warren. "It becomes personal to them. They look forward to the interactions, and it goes both ways."
Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news conference on Tuesday that people who live in nursing homes are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, both because of their vulnerable health and the locations where they live.
"In every situation, there are going to be unique needs that must be met, and we are prepared to act swiftly to address the needs of each of these situations," Abbott said.
There are 2,146 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Houston/Harris County area as of Tuesday afternoon, including 23 deaths and 303 recoveries.
Health officials urge people to continue social distancing and keep at least six feet of distance from others.
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The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some patients also have nausea, headaches and stomach issues.
Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.
But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.
The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.
Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...
- The air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Help stop the spread of coronavirus
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Eat and sleep separately from your family members
- Use different utensils and dishes
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
- If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
- Follow social distancing
Lower your risk
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.
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