Third death confirmed at Floresville veteran’s home with more than 20 postive COVID-19 cases

Three residents have died, 6 remain hospitalized

Floresville, TEXASUPDATE, April 29, 2020:

A third resident of the Frank M. Tejeda State Veteran’s Home has died due to complications from COVID-19, according to a spokesperson from the Texas General Land Office.

At least 14 residents and 8 staff members have tested positive.

According to Karina Erickson with the Texas General Land Office, 6 residents are in the hospital and 5 remain at the veteran’s home.

All staff and residents have been tested. Ten staff members have refused testing or have not been tested due to medical leave, Erickson said. These individuals will not be allowed back into the facility until they have been tested and have a negative result, according to Erickson.

UPDATE, April 21, 2020:

A second resident of the Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veteran’s Home has died due to complications from COVID-19, according to the Floresville mayor.

At least 12 residents and five staff members have tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday afternoon, said Floresville Mayor Cissy Gonzalez-Dippel. More than 130 residents have already tested negative but about 150 staff are awaiting results.

UPDATE, April 20, 2020:

While the number of staff and residents infected with the coronavirus at a South Texas veteran’s home climbed by a handful over the weekend, there is some potentially good news out of the Floresville facility.

The vast majority of residents at the Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veteran’s Home — 131 of 148 — have tested negative for COVID-19, a spokesperson from the Texas General Land Office, which oversees the long-term care facility, told KSAT Monday morning. Below is the breakdown for all residents:

  • 11 residents have tested positive
  • 1 died
  • 6 hospitalized
  • 131 residents tested negative
  • 6 tests for residents still pending

Now, concerns over the outbreak turn to staff members, the majority of whom were tested after residents. As of Monday morning, five staff members tested positive for the virus and 153 other employees are awaiting results.

RELATED: 'I had 102 fever and couldn’t get tested’: Floresville veteran’s home nurse aide positive for coronavirus; others still waiting

UPDATE, April 16, 2020:

Four days after a resident from Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veteran’s Home died of COVID-19, not all staff at the facility have been tested for the virus.

Two new cases confirmed at the facility Thursday brings the total patient count to at least eight residents.

The Texas General Land Office, which oversees the Floresville facility, tells KSAT 12 that while all residents — about 150 — have been tested as of Thursday, not all staff has because they are awaiting additional test kits.

“We will finish testing the rest of the staff as soon as possible and all tests for staff are being paid for and conducted by our operator, Touchstone Communities,” wrote Karina Erickson, a spokesperson for the Texas General Land Office.

There are a total of 176 staff members employed at the home. As of Thursday, 35 have been tested, according to the land office. Only nine of those tests have returned with results.

More than 100 residents still have tests pending, Erickson said.

On April 9, a 75-year-old male resident tested positive for the coronavirus, the first known case at the facility. On April 12, the man died at a hospital in San Antonio.

Since then, seven other residents have tested positive and dozens of tests are still pending. Five are in the hospital and two remain asymptomatic and are still residing at the veteran’s home, according to Erickson.

“We are in continuous contact with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Health and Human Services Commission and remain committed to ensuring the health and safety of our residents and team members,” Erickson said.

Floresville Mayor Cissy Gonzalez-Dippel told KSAT that she is concerned that not everyone who could have potentially been exposed to the virus has been tested, but that she’s “following up constantly” and working with the state to try to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus.

She’s hoping to avoid a situation like the COVID-19 outbreak that has so far killed at least 17 residents and infected more than 100 people at a nursing home of similar size in southeast San Antonio.

RELATED: 17 COVID-19 cases reported in Wilson County

UPDATE: April 15, 2020: On Wednesday, four new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed at the Frank M. Tejeda Veteran’s Home, bringing the total number of cases among residents to six, according to Floresville Mayor Cissy Gonzalez-Dippel. Several tests are still pending.

Also on Wednesday, the Audie Murphy VA Medical Center, in San Antonio, sent in eight physicians to the long-term care facility in Floresville to finish testing all residents and staff. There are about 150 residents that live inside the facility, according to Gonzalez-Dippel. KSAT also received a statement from the Texas General Land Office, which oversees the facility, that can be read in its entirety near the bottom of this article.

ORIGINAL: As major cities deal with the effects of COVID-19, rural Texas towns with fewer resources are starting to get hit hard as well.

Floresville, a town of about 7,000 located in Wilson County, about 30 miles southeast of downtown San Antonio, is an example of how smaller communities are struggling to fight back against the virus.

Late last week, city officials learned of the first positive case of COVID-19 at the Frank M. Tejeda Veterans Home, which has the capacity to provide long-term care for more than 150 people. On Sunday, the 75-year-old resident died just days after testing positive. He was hospitalized in San Antonio on April 9 and died April 12.

Now, officials have identified the second positive case at the facility, saying that the latest patient had close contact with the 75-year-old man. It’s not immediately clear on Tuesday whether the patient is a resident or staff member. There are 11 positive cases confirmed throughout Wilson County.

Families of residents and staff members and local officials are concerned the facility may report more cases in the coming days as test results of potential exposures return. They’re hoping to avoid a situation like the COVID-19 outbreak that has so far killed at least 17 residents and infected more than 100 people at a Southeast Side nursing home.

Frank M. Tejeda Veteran's Home (KSAT)

First death due to COVID-19 reported in Wilson County

But Floresville Mayor Cissy Gonzalez-Dippel said in an interview with KSAT12 that she’s facing new challenges, like shortages on essential equipment and protective gear and having to wait longer for test results since the county doesn’t have a health department. Ultimately, she’s at the mercy of state investigators and labs.

“Our county has come under fire that we’re not giving out enough information, but the bottom line is we don’t get it,” Gonzalez-Dippel said. “We hold for DSHS (Department of State Health Services) and Region 8.”

The biggest question on the mayor’s mind now is: how did a case appear inside the Frank M. Tejeda Veterans Home if it has been closed to all non-essential visitors since March 9?

“The DSHS has been investigating to see where that virus originated from, and we have not received any details of that,” Gonzalez-Dippel said.

The mayor also said every resident who lived in the same wing as the first patient, and all staff that was around him, have been tested. More tests will be conducted this week for all other residents and all staff, she said.

″It had to be taken in somehow from someone, and we’re eagerly awaiting information on how that happened," Gonzalez-Dippel said.

As local officials await those results, they’re encouraging the community to continue to practice social distancing and be patient.

If anybody is needing assistance in Floresville they are encouraged to call Floresville City Hall at (830) 393-3105 or the Floresville Food Pantry 830-321-1151.

Statement from the Texas General Land Office, which oversees the facility:

"On Friday, April 10th, a resident in the Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veterans Home tested positive for COVID-19. Immediate actions were taken to prevent the spread of the virus inside the Home. Direct care staff have access to appropriate PPE in accordance with health authority guidelines, and we are in the process of testing all residents and staff for the virus. At this time, we have two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Frank M. Tejeda Texas State Veterans Home. Of those two cases, one resident has since passed from the virus.

"On Saturday, all residents’ legal representatives were notified via phone call regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 inside the Home and were informed of the ongoing actions, precautions, and care. We remain focused on keeping our residents and team healthy. Residents testing positive for COVID-19 are being moved to a separate area of the home and those requiring additional care will be transferred to Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital in San Antonio.

“Since March 12th, all non-essential visitors have been prohibited from entering the VLB facilities. In addition, all staff and vendors were required to undergo temperature checks and acknowledge that they did not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, prior to being allowed entry to a VLB home. All protocols issued by the Center for Disease Control, Health and Human Services and Department of Veterans Affairs are being followed. Our thoughts are with our residents impacted by this pandemic, and we will continue to work together as a community to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.


About the Author

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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