COVID-19 deaths taking a devastating toll on nursing homes

Miya Shay Image
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
COVID-19 deaths taking a devastating toll on nursing homes
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New state data showed Focused Care facility in Westwood had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Harris County.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- New state data is showing the devastating toll COVID-19 is having on Texas families, especially in the Greater Houston area.

The Texas Health and Human Service Commission, which regulates long-term care facilities, finally released the data on Monday after months of pressure from families and long-term care advocates.

For instance, the data showed Focused Care at Westwood had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Harris County. Twenty residents have died since the pandemic began, including Lily Jang's father, David Jang.

"My dad contracted COVID from somebody at that nursing facility," said Lily, a former journalist and now realtor. "The morning I got that call, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. He was there because he has Parkinson's disease and he was already immunocompromised."

RELATED: First look at nursing homes with worst COVID-19 outbreak

The Focused Care facility on Beechnut had 54 staffers test positive for COVID-19 and 17 residents die since the pandemic began.

Adding to the strain, families with loved ones in those facilities have not been able to visit them in person.

"We've been trying not to be worried. He's 94 years old," said Lauren Sowell, whose grandfather-in-law lives at Eagles Trace, which reported two COVID-19 deaths to the state. "He basically sits in his room all day long, and can't go to the cafeteria. All he has is his room he stays in all day everyday."

As for Lily, she is still mourning the death of her father who passed on July 8, and she worries about all the other families with loved ones in nursing homes.

"My heart really goes out for everyone who was there because I was there so often visiting my dad. I got to see a lot of familiar faces, and I don't know who died. I've been devastated, and many others feel the same way."

According to ABC13 analysis, there are 567 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties. Of those, 10 percent of nursing homes had at least one death.

MAP: Nursing homes and assisted living facilities that have had at least one death

Here's Focused Care statement in regards to COVID-19:

"Focused Care at Westwood and Focused Care at Beechnut are both located in Harris County, which has the largest population of any county in Texas and the largest number of COVID cases, according to recently released HHS data. We are pleased to report that today, both long term care communities are COVID-free.

That said, a recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation notes, "Long-term care cases in "hotspot states" with wider community transmission have risen at four times the rate as long-term care cases in non-hotspot states" and "The two states with the highest overall increase in cases statewide, Texas and Florida, also report the highest increase in cases in long-term care facilities, with both states reporting an increase of approximately 50% in long-term care cases between June 24th and July 9th and nearly a doubling of cases during this time period." Additionally, the report explains, "Increased cases in long-term care facilities may be attributed in part to increased testing of long-term care residents, but it likely represents a real increase in infections connected to the near doubling of all cases across the state in this 14-day period. The share of tests coming back positive in Texas and Florida are well over 10%, suggesting that community transmission is widespread and increasing."

State data appears to correlate community spikes in the infection with nursing home case rates, a regrettable connection as we battle on a daily basis to save lives and protect the health of our team members. The infection rate and deaths of long term care residents from COVID-19 have taken a devastating toll on family members, the nursing home staff who care for our residents and the communities at large.

Focused Post Acute Care Partners has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by following all guidelines set by the CDC, CMS, and local and state health departments and in some cases, exceeding them. We recently contracted with a private lab to streamline regular testing of team members and residents and expedite the delivery of results directly to each community.

We continue to develop strategies to implement the best health safety measures through this difficult time, communicate with family members and keep them in touch with loved ones under current restrictions, and remain committed to our original mission, which is to improve the health of our residents and make their lives meaningful."

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