Employee at south Austin nursing home dies of COVID-19

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An employee at a south Austin nursing home has died of COVID-19, the nursing home confirmed Monday.

A statement from the West Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center reads, in part, “we are deeply saddened by the loss of our team member and send our thoughts and prayers to friends and family.”

The nursing home’s statement went on to say they have counseling services to place for staff and patients that are in need.

“The health and safety of the patients and staff of West Oaks is the highest priority,” the statement reads.

Two patients at the nursing home were diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March. It is one of several Austin-area nursing homes that have confirmed to KXAN cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The news of the employee’s passing comes just three days after Austin Public Health began testing staff members at Riverside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, another facility owned by the same company as West Oaks. The testing will last until Tuesday.

As of right now, Riverside is the only facility in the Austin area where testing has already begun, but that’s about to change.

New orders for nursing homes, long-term care facilities after a COVID-19 case

On Monday, Austin Public Health issued a new order: in facilities where a “cluster” of two or more cases has been identified, all staff and contractors must be made available for testing, if requested.

Additionally, the facility must restrict taking in any new patients, and any patients that were returning to the facility must be kept out. These restrictions will be lifted once APH clears the facility.

Also according to the order, all patients, staff and next of kin at any facility must be notified of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

This order followed some new national regulatory requirements from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), mandating that nursing homes inform residents, their families and representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities.

APH reported that as of Monday, there have been eight outbreaks at area nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, with around 67 staff and 96 residents infected. They said the deaths of 15 residents were related to COVID-19.

Still, the city of Austin and the state of Texas will not release the locations of facilities with confirmed cases, despite increasing calls for transparency.

For several weeks, KXAN Investigators have been asked the Texas Heath and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to release these locations. A commission spokesperson cited state privacy laws as reasoning for not make that information public.

Meanwhile, states like Colorado, California, Florida, and Georgia have released the locations of homes with confirmed cases, though in some cases the lists are only partial.

KXAN Investigators have independently confirmed the locations of at least 10 long term care facilities in Central Texas.

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