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Texas Nursing Homes Have Higher Rates Of COVID-19 Cases, Deaths

Larry and Mary Yarbroff hold hands.
Jeff Chiu
Associated Press
Larry Yarbroff, right, sits with his wife, Mary, while visiting her at Chaparral House in Berkeley, Calif., Friday, July 10, 2020.

New data from the American Association of Retired Persons shows a challenging picture in Texas nursing homes, and an industry group is raising concerns about another wave of coronavirus cases in nursing homes.

Throughout the pandemic, nursing homes have been hot spots, with medically vulnerable residents living together and often needing a lot of close care from staff members. Since the beginning of the year, more than 4,300 Texas nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, a quarter of all COVID deaths in the state, according the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

“I think it’s really important that we continue to focus, and the state really makes the priority, testing, PPE, and really making sure...that these facilities are adequately staffed. In the end, lives are at stake,” said Amanda Fredriksen, AARP Texas’ associate state director for advocacy.

In a detailed snapshot from the four weeks leading up to September 20, AARP found that nursing home residents in Texas faced a higher rate of coronavirus cases and deaths compared to the national average.

Nursing home workers are also getting sick at a higher rate in Texas. There were confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff members at more than half of the state's nursing homes over the month. More than a third of facilities reported being understaffed.

“These are folks who are not paid a lot. They show up to work, they do care that is very personal, that is very intimate, and there’s not a lot of financial reward,” Fredriksen said. “And yet they’re putting themselves at risk every day.”

One positive data point from the AARP snapshot: Texas nursing homes were better stocked with PPE than facilities in most other states.

Fredriksen said the advocacy group plans to update state-by-state dashboards monthly to help track progress and inform the government and industry response, in conjunction with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio. Nursing homes are required to publicly report information about COVID-19 infiltration by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

A trade association representing some of the nation’s nursing homes and assisted living centers also published a report based on the CMS-required data this week. The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living warned that a spike in coronavirus cases among the general population risked a third spike of nursing home-based outbreaks.

“The number one factor in keeping COVID out of our nursing homes, so we can protect our vulnerable population is reducing the level of the virus in the surrounding community,” Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the industry group, said in a statement accompanying the report.

“We could still see another wave of COVID cases caused by the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S. given the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus,” he added.

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher at can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

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