REBECCA FIEDLER email@example.com
A rapid response team with the Texas Division of Emergency Management was deployed to Brenham on Friday at the behest of state Sen. Lois W. Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. Kolkhorst expressed great concern that more than half of Washington County’s now 113 coronavirus cases have been generated from one central location: the Brenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
As of Saturday evening, Washington County’s COVID-19 case count had reached 113, with 12 deaths and 14 recoveries, according to the county Office of Emergency Management website. On Friday, the site confirmed that at least 67 of these cases had been reported from the Brenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. This update noted that Washington County leaders are expecting more COVID-19 cases to be reported by the care facility over the coming days.
Brooke C. Ladner, who represents Regency Integrated Health Services, which manages Brenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, issued a statement Saturday night: “Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, our dedicated staff members at the Brenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have worked diligently to protect its residents from infection, by adhering to recommendations and guidelines set by local, state, and federal agencies.
“Our supply of Personal Protection Equipment has been fortified and staff members undergo regular training to keep up with the rapid changes in protocols. There is a designated area where staff members are screened daily for symptoms and specific instructions for donning and doffing personal protective equipment. In addition, there is an isolation unit at BNRC for COVID-19 positive patients and a protocol for staff assigned to the unit which prohibits those staff members from caring for non-COVID 19 positive residents at the same time.
“A response team dispatched by the Texas Division of Emergency Management was on site late [Friday] to provide testing for all staff in the facility. Due to federal and state privacy laws, we are unable to release this health information, however, it is shared with all appropriate health authorities.”
Ladner said families of residents of the facility have been notified of recent developments.
“Although there is a spike in positive cases due to a single source, the community spread cases are slowing,” said Dr. William Loesch, Washington County Local Health Authority, quoted on the Office of Emergency Management website.
Kolkhorst had issued a press release Tuesday stating that six out of the county’s seven reported coronavirus-related deaths at that time were patients taken from the Brenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Kolkhorst, according to a second press release issued Friday, made a request to the Texas Division of Emergency Management to review the situation still unfolding at the facility, as she fears the outbreak not only will continue to harm the nursing home’s residents and staff, but also spread outward into the greater Washington County community. She insisted that stricter, stronger measures be taken.
Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Texas Rapid Assessment Quick Response Force deployed two teams this weekend to the nursing home in Brenham, Kolkhorst’s release states. Also deploying was a medical SWAT team from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of State Health Services.
“While we are so grateful for all the employees at Brenham Nursing and Rehab, it is imperative that anyone that works at this center not work at another facility and to not circulate in the community,” the release quotes Kolkhorst. “Asymptomatic infected workers could spread the virus rapidly. ... Elderly populations are extremely vulnerable even on a good day, which makes it so vital that we do all we can when COVID-19 is discovered in a nursing home.
“Our statewide numbers are moving in the right direction, and while we prepare to reopen our economic and social activities, Texas needs to target high risk groups such as the Brenham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. We need to work fast and we need to work smart,” Kolkhorst said.
The Washington County Joint Information Center hosted a short online news conference Friday, featuring Loesch.
“Cases from the county, from community spread, at least seem to be leveled off,” he said. “We have got right now, I think, enough personal protective equipment for providers. The hospital is not overwhelmed, and it doesn’t look like, in the near future, it’s going to be overwhelmed. ... I understand we’ve got to get the economy moving again. We just need to be careful. Right now in Washington County, as in Texas, I think we’re at least close to the peak [of the outbreak], if we haven’t maybe surpassed the peak.”
Loesch advised that as businesses reopen, Washington County shouldn’t return to normal too quickly. He said, rather, that he predicts a “new normal for the near future.” He stressed the continued use of masks and the practice of isolation unless travel is required.