WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TX — Amid rising fatality rates blamed on the coronavirus, the Williamson County health authority has issued updated control orders for nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities to enhance protections among the most vulnerable population segment.
The measure is designed to help blunt the spread of illness to vulnerable populations in the event positive cases emerge and illness clusters are detected, county officials said in an advisory issued Friday.
The updated orders stipulate that:
In the event of a positive COVID-19 case at a facility, the facility should restrict admission of any new patients into the facility or any returning patients to the facility until the facility has been cleared by Williamson County and Cities Health District or the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHSC), and all residents and staff of the facility will be required to be tested for COVID-19 per the most current HHSC requirements and guidance. Additional testing may be required until COVID-19 transmission at the facility is controlled as determined by the health district or the state health and human services agency.
Facility administrators or their appropriate medical staff should establish contracts with laboratory services for acquiring and submitting specimens for COVID-19 testing and should train appropriate clinical staff to administer nasopharyngeal swabs for collecting specimens for testing. Additionally, they must ensure that they have adequate arrangements in place to cover staff shortages, including options to contract with outside staffing agencies, in the event of a COVID-19 cluster or other outbreak or emergency, per HHSC requirements.
A Strike Team of additional personnel and equipment may be deployed to supplement staffing at facilities until the outbreak is controlled as determined by the health district or the state health and human services agency.
Moreover, all employees and contractors in contact with residents within six feet must utilize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended Personal Protective Equipment for COVID-19.
To date, county officials said, there have been 36 outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities* with 254 staff and 252 residents infected, and 55 resident deaths related to COVID-19. However, health officials offered a disclaimer in parsing the data: "Numbers are provisional and subject to change as additional information is received. Some nursing home staff work at multiple facilities and may be duplicated in the numbers."
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Williamson County Health Authority and Williamson County and Cities Health District Medical Director Dr. Lori Palazzo added: “It is critical that those who have been entrusted to care for our most vulnerable populations follow the guidelines that have been put in place to protect them,” she said in a prepared statement.
Health officials noted that proactive efforts to protect vulnerable populations began on April 23 with the initial control order, which outlined proactive measures to avoid spread in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Actions mandated in this initial order are still included in the updated order:
“Help Prevent Disease” signage must be displayed prominently in the facility.
Hand sanitizer must be available and supplied to employees, patients, visitors and volunteers.
The facility must symptom and temperature check all employees, patients, visitors and volunteers prior to entry to the facility.
For more information and updates, visit the Williamson County and Cities Health District website.