HOUSTON – According to state data, the number of COVID-19 cases has been steadily increasing at nursing homes.
The number of nursing homes reporting active coronavirus cases climbed from 512 on Nov. 1 to 657 on Nov. 18, according to data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
“If I hear her voice I can tell if she’s OK or if she’s not feeling well,” said James Harvey.
Harvey’s wife of 52 years, Nancy Harvey, recently tested positive for COVID-19. James Harvey said his wife had to be moved from her nursing facility in Webster to a facility in Baytown specializing in coronavirus-positive residents.
“It’s hard, it’s hard as hell,” James Harvey said. “Like I say, I’m a rookie at this but, God, have I learned so much this year.”
Earlier this year, Nancy Harvey’s health declined and the family had to make the decision to place her in a nursing home. Her daughter Tammie Weaver was terrified.
“If she goes, she’s probably going to end up dying from COVID,” Weaver said she remembered thinking at the time.
Visitation has been particularly difficult for the family. Weaver said she suffers from an auto-immune disease, which means she has to take extra precautions when considering visiting her mother. Those worries have been compounded by the pandemic.
“I’ve only seen her, probably 5-10 minutes this whole year,” said Weaver.
Weaver recently underwent several rounds of COVID-19 testing just to secure an appointment to visit her mother face-to-face. Weaver said that appointment was canceled, as was a social-distanced visit because of the rising number of cases and residents not being allowed to leave their rooms.
The state banned direct contact visitation at nursing homes earlier this year, but eased some of those restrictions in September. With the numbers going back up, tighter restrictions are back in place at many facilities.
“I just want to hear her voice one time a day,” said James Harvey. “You can’t see them, outside window visits, wow. But hearing her voice, that helps.”
The family said Nancy Harvey has, so far, remained asymptomatic.
“God, all the people out there that’s gone through this, I feel so sorry for them,” said James Harvey.
As of Nov. 18, 4,243 nursing home residents have active COVID-19 cases. That number is up from 2,913 on the first day of the month. The numbers are lower at assisted living facilities -- 481 active resident cases spread across 226 facilities.
Since the pandemic began, the state has reported 4,667 COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes and 624 in assisted living facilities. These deaths account for more than a quarter of all coronavirus-related deaths in the state.
Officials with HHSC sent KPRC 2 the following statement:
“HHSC is continuing to coordinate daily with our local, state, and federal partners to get nursing facilities the resources and supports they need to respond to COVID-19, as well as to ensure their ongoing compliance with all requirements to protect the health and safety of residents. HHSC surveyors continue to perform on-site investigations of nursing facilities statewide in response to concerns about COVID-19 or any other potential health and safety issue. These survey teams also continue to go on site to conduct inspections to ensure facilities are complying with all of the emergency rules HHSC has issued in response to COVID-19. HHSC coordinates closely with DSHS and local health departments to track the presence of COVID-19 in all facilities among residents and staff, and this data continues to be updated daily. COVID positive facilities in need of resources such as staffing, disinfection, or PPE should attempt to obtain resources through their normal supply chain first but can contact their Public Health Region. Facilities can also request resources via the State of Texas Assistance Request (STAR) process by working with their local emergency management office. HHSC can also assist a facility with filing a STAR, if needed.”