There’s concern for San Antonio nursing homes as COVID-19 cases rise

Families who want to see loved ones do so by virtual or window visit

SAN ANTONIO – Nursing homes are a concern as COVID-19 continues to spread in San Antonio.

On Tuesday, Metro Health said 43 residents have died at local nursing homes since the start of the pandemic.

According to numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 1,236 nursing home residents and 179 residents at assisted living facilities have died due to COVID-19.

A nursing home is considered a medical facility where people receive continual care.

An assisted living facility is a social and medical hybrid, where people receive limited nursing care.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been on lockdown since March.

Monica Alonzo can only see her 90-year-old mother through the window.

Her mother, Maria Curiel Huerta, resides at Silver Creek Manor.

“She doesn’t understand that you know, I can’t go visit her. My brother can’t visit her. My sister,” Alonzo said. “It’s not the staff’s fault. It’s not any of the facilities fault. It’s understandable, you know, they’re just trying to take precautions or, you know, for our loved ones.”

At the start of the pandemic, federal and state rules were put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

“The state put precautions in place to restrict people coming in and out of buildings in order to protect the residents,” said Diana Martinez, president and CEO of the Texas Assisted Living Association.

Shelly Winsor, executive director of Adante Assisted Living and Memory Care, said they have made several changes since March.

“Screening everyone that is deemed essential to work here with a temperature check, questionnaire whenever they arrive. We’re monitoring everyone for symptoms,” Winsor said.

Winsor said families who want to see their loved ones can either do so by a virtual visit or window visit.

She said staff wear masks at all times and residents also wear masks if they are outside their apartments.

Winsor said because of the changes, no residents have contracted COVID-19, but only one staff member has tested positive.

If a resident does get COVID-19 there are plans in place.

“We would have a designated team for them that wouldn’t be interacting with our other residents, just with our COVID positive residents to be sure that they’re kept safe. Monitoring them every day for symptoms changes, things like that,” Winsor said.

According to data from Metro Health, there are roughly 30 nursing homes with active cases. The nursing homes must go two weeks without a positive case in order to be removed from the list, according to a Metro Health spokeswoman.

All congregate settings, including jails and assisted living facilities, are tracked and given infection prevention guidance, but only nursing homes are on the public list, according to Metro Health.

The state is responsible for overseeing nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The City of San Antonio only provides help with testing and mitigation efforts.

During Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, Metro Health Assistant Director Mario Martinez said it has set up a “congregate settings team.”

“We’re also looking at getting additional physicians that will help Dr. Woo and our team to address the importance of visiting these congregate settings, working with administrators and those individuals that are touching residents,” Martinez said.

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