Stores, restaurants and state beaches can begin to reopen in Texas on Friday. But relaxing shelter-in-place rules could be risky as state cases and deaths are still rising, particularly in residential centers that care for seniors and people with disabilities.
In light of that, more than 60 Democratic and Republican lawmakers have signed a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, demanding increased funding, more transparency and protections for residents and staff in long-term senior care facilities as they deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Democratic state Rep. James Talarico of Round Rock wrote the letter. He told Texas Standard on Thursday that long-term care facilities have been especially hard hit by the disease.
“Over the weekend, we had 50 patients in a Round Rock nursing home test positive for COVID-19.”
He said elderly and disabled residents of these facilities “need our protection more than any other population.”
The letter includes three requests of the governor: emergency funding, transparent reporting and mandatory testing.
Talarico and his colleagues want Abbott to release emergency funding that would provide hazard pay and personal protective equipment for staff members working in long-term care facilities.
Greater transparency would involve requiring nursing homes, group homes and state-supported living centers to report the COVID-19 cases and fatalities that occurred in them.
“It’s very difficult to overcome a pandemic when you don’t have up-to-date, accurate data,” he said.
That kind of information would make it possible to deploy medical resources where they are needed most.
The letter also asks for mandatory testing of residents and staff in long-term care facilities.
Abbott’s order allowing businesses to reopen includes new protocols for nursing homes, but they aren’t enough, Talarico said.
“I wish he cared as much about protecting nursing homes as he does about reopening movie theaters.”
Texas Standard requested comment from the Governor’s Office, but did not receive a response by the time this story was published.
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.
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