KXAN continues tracking and mapping COVID-19 in Central Texas senior facilities

Investigations

UPDATE: After months of delay, and a ruling by the Texas Attorney General’s Office that the data should be released, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission publicly posted records on July 27 of all cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and state supported living facilities through the state.

HHSC refused to release the data for the first several months of the pandemic, citing medical privacy laws. HHSC opted to post each facility’s case counts online after the AG’s ruling on July 6. The data will be updated each weekday, according to HHSC.

KXAN has mapped the data, and we will update the map weekly with new information from HHSC. You can view the map below.

On July 27, the Texas Health & Human Services Commission finally released COVID-19 case counts for individual nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Texas. KXAN investigators have mapped that data for Central Texas, and we will update the map’s interactive information weekly for the duration of the pandemic.Read more about this data.

ORIGINAL POST: AUSTIN (KXAN) — Both in Texas and nationwide, senior facilities have been slammed by COVID-19. The disease, which is caused by the novel coronavirus, began spreading in Texas in March. Within four months, it killed over 1,300 residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. That death toll accounted for more than a third of all Texans killed by the virus in that time, according to Health and Human Service Commission records from mid-July.

But while the virus poses the most significant threat to elderly people who may have weakened immune systems, and cases continue to mount in senior facilities, HHSC and local health authorities have refused to release data they compile on COVID-19 cases in individual locations. HHSC and health officials have said they are prohibited by medical privacy laws from releasing facility-level data. HHSC has released aggregate case counts, which you can see here.

In response to our requests for detailed counts of cases, state and local health officials, as well as nursing home operators, have referred KXAN to a federal effort by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect and publish COVID-19 case information.

CMS released its first batch of nationwide facility data on June 4. The first dataset was delayed, incomplete and truncated. CMS’s data collection only provides weekly snapshots back to May 24. It also does not include assisted living facilities. Aside from missing months of information, hundreds of facilities have failed to submit weekly data. Texas has led the country in the number of long-term care facilities that have not submitted information each week to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All the while, KXAN has received hundreds of emails from Central Texans, including relatives of people in long-term care facilities, expressing concern about the situation in local long-term care facilities. People want to know what is happening inside these homes, and they are often struggling to get accurate information from the facilities themselves.

Considering all these issues, KXAN has endeavored to catalog and map all the locations where we have received confirmation from a facility’s administrators that there has been at least one case of COVID-19 among residents or staff.

For months the Texas Health & Human Services Commission refused to disclose the number and locations of positive COVID-19 cases among nursing and living facilities. KXAN investigators have verified viewer tips and confirmed whistleblower accounts independently throughout Central Texas. On July 27, HHSC began posting facility-level data; however, KXAN will continue to independently verify and update this map as new outbreaks are brought to our attention.

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