ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Trinity Care Center, a senior facility in Round Rock, has confirmed residents and staff at that location have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a company statement.

Williamson County and Cities Health District confirmed this weekend that there were 46 cases, and updated KXAN midday Monday that there were now 50 cases between residents and staff at that facility.

Trinity provides short-term rehabilitation services and long-term care. It is located at 1000 East Main Street in Round Rock. Trinity is the 11th Austin-area nursing and assisted living facility to confirm at least one case of COVID-19 to KXAN among its residents or staff.

When WCCHD confirmed this cluster of cases over the weekend, the first COVID-19 nursing home cases confirmed in Williamson County, the health district could not share which facility experienced this cluster of cases. Monday Caraday Health, the Texas-based skilled nursing corporation, confirmed to KXAN that their Trinity Care Center facility was, in fact, the facility where the cluster was reported in Williamson County.

“On [April 23], we were informed that a Trinity team member who had called off sick to work had ultimately received a positive test result for COVID-19. At that time, we arranged to test all team member and residents to manage the situation proactively. The results were received today and 30 residents and 15 team members have had positive test results. We are monitoring everyone extremely closely and thus far no residents or team members within Trinity appear to be symptomatic. Effected team members are isolating at home,” Caraday said in its statement which is dated April 25, 2020.

What appear to be healthcare workers at Trinity Care Center stand outside the care center wearing protective gear on Monday April 27. KXAN Photo/ Frank Martinez.

This information differs from the account from the family Trinity Care Center resident, 69-year-old Sulema “Sue” DeLeon.

DeLeon’s family said she is one of the Trinity residents who tested positive and that she has been hospitalized since early Sunday morning. Her family said that she is currently in critical condition at the Dell Seton ICU with a fever and fluid in her lungs.

When KXAN called WCCHD at around noon on Monday, the health district was not aware at that point that any Trinity Care Center residents had been hospitalized or intubated.

While spokesperson for Ascension Seton could not confirm this due to patient privacy, DeLeon’s family offered KXAN a detailed account of how she was tested, received results and hospitalized over the past few days.

Sue DeLeon’s story

Sue DeLeon’s family members contacted KXAN. Sue’s son, Mike DeLeon, who lives in North Austin, explained that his mom has Huntington’s chorea, an inherited, degenerative disease.

Sue has several pre-existing health complications, her son explained, including asthma, diabetes, and a recent urinary tract infection. Mike explained that his mother is capable of having conversations, but her short term memory is affected by her disease.

A photo of Sue DeLeon (far right) at her son Mike DeLeon’s wedding in 2018. Photo Courtesy Mike DeLeon.

Sue had been living at Trinity Care Center in Round Rock for around three years, her family said. Mike recalled that the evening of Thursday April 23, their family got a call from a nurse practitioner at the facility who let them know that another Trinity employee had tested positive for COVID-19.

Mike said that he asked the nurse practitioner if residents were aware yet, and he was told that they were not. He called his mother immediately after and told her to stay inside and take precautions. That was the last conversation he had with his mom while she was lucid.

Then Saturday April 25 at 4 p.m., Mike said his sister was having a phone call with their mom when Sue’s speech slurred, then stopped altogether. The family called Trinity, in fear of Sue’s safety, and were informed this time that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been taken to a section of the facility to quarantine.

Then 11 p.m. Saturday, Mike said the family received a call that Sue was in respiratory stress, she uses oxygen to breathe and was having difficulty breathing. Another phone call at 3:30 a.m. Sunday April 26, alerted the family that Sue would be taken by ambulance to a hospital.

Mike got calls from an admitting doctor at Dell Seton in Austin at around 4:30 a.m., then another call from a different doctor after a shift change at 7 a.m.

Currently, Mike said, his mother is in critical condition at the Dell Seton ICU with a fever and fluid in her lungs. He noted that hospital staff had done a blood transfusion which had some success for her.

At around noon on Thursday, Mike called KXAN with an update that Sue would have to be intubated and that her odds for survival didn’t look good.

“What makes me angry is based on the conversations we had with the doctors, this is right about day four or five — usually the day that [COVID-19] is going to be the worst,” Mike said. “This means my mom was probably sick at the beginning of the week in order for this to happen. “

“I’m just upset that it took this long to find out somebody was sick,” he added.

Because Trinity Care has been limiting visitors for weeks, Mike said he has not given his mother a hug since the beginning of March.

“The last couple of times I saw, her, I saw her through a window,”  he explained.

“I’m pretty frustrated at how all this came about, they did a horrible job by not protecting my mother and to see that happen.” 

“I initially wanted to cry about it, but the anger and disappointment has limited me from doing that,” he explained.

Caraday Health’s response

On Sunday evening, Caraday Health sent KXAN the following statement:

“We are working extremely hard on a daily basis to meet the needs of all our residents and team members during these challenging times of the Coronavirus. We are closely monitoring all residents and team members and, thus far, no symptoms are evident. We will continue to follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other national, state and local public health authorities to best ensure the health and well-being of all our residents and team members.”

On Monday evening, spokesperson for Caraday Health referred KXAN to the company’s COVID-19 webpage details related to testing, though there did not appear to be any additional updated since the PDF posted on April 25 which showed that 30 residents and 15 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

The spokesperson also noted that on Monday at Trinity Care, the “power went out [apparently a fuse blew on the transformer], but back-up generators kicked in, so all critical systems continued functioning.” The spokesperson also noted that the power has since been restored to the facility.

Williamson County COVID-19 nursing home outreach

Derrick Neal, the Executive Director for Williamson County & Cities Health District explained that until last week, the county didn’t have any identified cases in nursing homes. He explained that the county had worked with many nursing homes to get “standard declaration orders” related to nursing homes and to make sure these facilities knew what would be expected.

“So we’ve been working with them closely to set up different protections within the nursing home community to really head off instances like this [one] that happened in Round Rock,” Neal said.

“But we can’t always protect [against] those things when that’s outside influences that may be coming in, exposing residents,” he said. “In this case, we think that’s potentially what happened.”

Neal clarified that WCCHD believes that this cluster potentially began when someone outside the facility came in and exposed residents.

“The reason I say potentially is because the investigation is still ongoing,” he added.

Neal said that Trinity Care Center was one of the nursing homes that WCCHD provided documents and information in the prior weeks to minimize the risk of outside visitors to the facility, which houses a population that is more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

“That’s something the county got out in front of a logn time ago, but there’s no sure way to totally prevent that, especially when it’s possible that a healthcare worker or some other type of individual was asymptomatic and exposed our residents,” Neal said.

Neal noted that on WCCHD will be launching a new online screening tool and a new COVID-19 test site to increase testing rates in the community to have a better sense of what the risks are of people with COVID-19 encountering places with lots of vulnerable residents, such as senior living facilities.

The health district’s online screening tool to assess whether someone is elligible for a COVID-19 test is available online as of Monday April 27. The first tests will be conducted Thursday, April 30 to those referred by the health district for testing. People cannot drive up to these sites, they must be referred through the screening tool where they will be given the location of the drive-through test site.

Those interested in being screened for COVID-19 testing in Williamson County can fill out the new online screening tool here.