Coronavirus Sweeps Through a San Antonio Nursing Home

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By Manny Fernandez NY Times, April 3 2020

The virus infected 67 of the facility’s 84 residents, killing one, with several infected employees working at other facilities in Texas.

A resident was transported from the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in San Antonio on Friday.
A resident was transported from the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in San Antonio on Friday.Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

HOUSTON — A coronavirus outbreak at a San Antonio nursing home has infected 67 of the facility’s 84 residents, killing one, the largest spread of the virus at a Texas long-term care facility, city and county officials said on Friday.

The outbreak at the Southeast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was described by local officials as “contained,” but they were scrambling on Friday to perform additional tests and to track down all of the facility’s 60 employees. Eight of the staff members have tested positive for the virus, and tracking its spread has been complicated by the fact that numerous employees also worked at other nursing homes in the San Antonio region.CLINICS IN PERILThe coronavirus pandemic has depleted many of these clinics revenues, causing layoffs.

“This morning we launched an aggressive, multilayered response to try to get our arms around the extent of this local outbreak,” Charles Hood, the San Antonio fire chief, told reporters at a news conference.

City officials on Friday amended previously issued emergency orders to prohibit nursing home employees from working in multiple facilities. Two of the eight infected employees worked in other facilities, and employees who have not been tested worked in at least seven nursing homes in the area. Such crossover of workers at multiple sites was one of the factors that contributed to a deadly coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes in the Seattle area, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a recent report.

In San Antonio, medical-response teams were visiting the seven facilities where Southeast employees may have worked to test all residents and workers who show symptoms. Officials were also planning to visit and evaluate 34 nursing homes that have received the lowest federal ratings.

“In case anyone in San Antonio needed a wake-up call about the seriousness of Covid-19 to our community, this is it,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said on Friday.

For weeks, Texas had been the largest state whose governor had not ordered all residents to stay indoors except for certain essential activities. But at a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Abbott announced he had issued an executive order instructing Texans to “minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.” except when they were providing or obtaining essential services.

Those essential activities included health care, law enforcement, food and agriculture, energy, financial services, and holding in-person gatherings at houses of worship, as long as social-distancing guidelines were followed.Sign up to receive our daily Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide with the latest developments and expert advice.Sign Up

At first, the governor shied away from calling his new order a statewide stay-at-home mandate. “A stay-at-home strategy would mean that you have to stay at home, you cannot leave home under any circumstances,” Mr. Abbott told reporters. “That obviously is not what we’ve articulated here.”

The next day, however, Mr. Abbott released a video message, clarifying, “I issued this executive order that requires all Texans to stay at home, except to provide essential services or do essential things.” And on Friday, asked if Texas was indeed under a statewide stay-at-home order, Mr. Abbott’s spokesman, John Wittman, said that it was.

Of the San Antonio nursing home’s 84 residents, 11 have had their tests come back negative; those residents were being kept in a separate part of the building, and employees treating them were not providing services to those who are infected. Six residents’ tests were still pending or were inconclusive, officials said.

The eight employees who tested positive are in self-isolation away from the nursing home. Officials were attempting to test the other 52 employees — seven were tested on Thursday, 17 were scheduled to be tested on Friday and medical personnel were trying to contact the others.

The nursing home, which is licensed for 116 beds and is owned by Southeast SNF LLC, according to state records, is listed on the federal government’s Medicare website as “much below average,” receiving one out of five stars.

The facility was fined $62,016 by federal regulators last March. The fine by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services came after the staff failed to consult the doctor of a woman who did not have a bowel movement for 13 days. She was later hospitalized, according to federal inspection data.

Manny Fernandez is the Houston bureau chief, covering Texas and Oklahoma. He joined The Times as a Metro reporter in 2005, covering the Bronx and housing. He previously worked for The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle. @mannyNYT