AUSTIN, Texas – About half of the residents at a nursing home tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. Even in the face of the outbreak, some families urge officials to let them in to care for their loved ones.
“It’s some of the most pathetic circumstances you could put someone in right now,” said Rachel Finney, whose 90-year-old grandmother tested negative for the disease in Pflugerville Health Care Center, about 15 miles north of Austin. “Having a visit with family … would do a lot for her state of mind.”
Finney is among thousands of Texans waiting for the chance to see their loved ones in person inside nursing homes for the first time in six months.
Although state officials started allowing visitors inside facilities in August, the requirements that facility operators had to meet – including testing staff weekly and being COVID-19-free for at least two weeks – were so stringent that fewer than 10% of nursing facilities opened up.
Thursday, the state cracked the doors to all nursing homes, allowing up to two designated family members per resident to come in at any time to care for their loved ones. Some nursing home resident advocates fear the move would open the floodgates to COVID-19. Family members argued that the disease can spread even under lockdown protocols that prevent them from entering.
“Their loved ones (inside nursing homes) are already being exposed to people,” said Mary Nichols, a North Texas resident and leader of Texas Caregivers for Compromise, a 2,900-member group advocating for family access into nursing homes. “Plumbers are going in. IT techs are going in. Nursing students