AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State representatives are asking Governor Greg Abbott to include community group homes in his mandate for more COVID-19 testing.
Governor Abbott originally ordered testing at all nursing homes across the state earlier this month, and recently expanded that to include state-supported living centers and state hospitals.
However, that does not include the 30,000 Texans living at community group homes with special needs, State Rep. James Talarico explained.
Rep. Talarico sent a letter to the Governor weeks ago, with bipartisan support from 62 other state representatives, asking for the expansion of testing and funding for group-style living facilities.
“We asked for three simple things,” Rep. Talarico explained. “One is immediate emergency funding to ensure that we can provide hazard pay to frontline health care workers, and personal protective equipment in those facilities. Second was universal testing to ensure that every patient, every worker in these facilities gets tested frequently to ensure we prevent outbreaks before they occur.”
“Then the last, after we ensure we provide funding and provide testing is ensuring that we report transparently where these cases and deaths are occurring across the state,” Rep. Talarico added.
While the Governor granted that to state-run living centers and state hospitals, Rep. Talarico said the focus is now on group homes.
“They are kind of packed in tightly together in these types of facilities. And so this is where outbreaks are occurring, and where they will continue to occur unless we take immediate and robust action to prevent outbreak,” Rep. Talarico said.
Providers at group homes are also concerned.
“The bottom line is if any one of us staff or residents get sick, we’re all going to get sick. I mean, it’s very close proximity or be the same as if you have if it happened to your own home,” Rudy Heredia at Kenmar Residential Services in Austin explained.
He said his facility, and others across the state, have been following all of the guidelines from Texas Health and Human Services, which includes banning visitors, canceling community activities and taking residents’ temperatures.
“COVID-19 has thrown everything into an absolute tailspin. They have not been able to leave the home since the stay home order,” he said.
The residents have not been allowed to go out in the community since the state shut down, and many have not been able to see their parents, per the visitor ban from HHSC.
This applies to group homes across the state, like for Advo Companies in Amarillo.
“I cannot be able to see my parents…and I cannot be able a hang out with my friends or a go to a Special Olympics bowling trip,” resident Keenon Doss explained.
He and his other friends living in the group home have adjusted to life in quarantine.
“We’ve been watching movies and doing puzzles and coloring,” Doss said.
But if a resident were to test positive, it would make the situation even harder to deal with.
Heredia explained, “It would be very, very difficult in that home situation, to isolate just one person.”