HARLINGEN, Texas – As Harlingen healthcare officials feared, more residents have died at local nursing homes riddled with the coronavirus.

A 91-year old female fatally contracted the COVID-19 virus while staying at Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Harlingen. A 93-year old female also succumbed to the disease while residing at Windsor Atrium, also in Harlingen.

Earlier this week, an 81-year-old man contracted the virus at Veranda died at Valley Baptist Medical Center. 

So far, a staggering 41 people directly or indirectly associated with Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare have contracted COVID-19. Two have passed away.

A total of 18 people connected with Windsor Atrium have contracted COVID-19. One has passed away. 

Health officials are investigating whether a staff member from Veranda carried the virus to Windsor.

Cameron County Public Health issued a news release late Thursday that explained the current situation at Veranda.

“Cameron County Public Health continues to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at the two nursing home facilities. To date, the Cameron County cases arising from the Veranda Nursing Home has included 16 employees, three individuals related to the employees and 22 residents who have tested positive, including two who have passed away,” the news release stated.

“There have also been 22 employees and 11 residents who have tested negative and 35 individuals pending results.”

The news release also explained the current situation at Windsor.

“The Windsor Atrium currently has eight employees and ten residents who have tested positive, including one who has passed away. There has also been one employee and one resident who has tested negative and ten individuals pending results.”

Cameron County health officials said individuals at the two facilities who have tested positive continue to be in isolation. The employees who have pending results are not working at the facility, they hastened to add.

“Cameron County Public Health continues to work with the facilities on the contact tracing and testing of patients and employees as needed,” the news released stated.

“Patients are being monitored and measures continue to be implemented to limit transmission to others, including monitoring all patients for signs and symptoms and use of personal protective equipment at all times.”

“Families of the patients have been informed,” the news released added. “Cameron County Public Health will continue with the investigation and provide updates as they become available.”

27 New Cases

In addition to the two deaths, Cameron County Public Health has received confirmation of an additional 27 reports of COVID-19. This includes the following:

Residence Gender Age(s) Transmission
Brownsville Female 28 Travel
Brownsville Female 48 Link to Previous Case
Harlingen Female 26, 29, 42, 48, 56, 57, 70, 81, 82, 100 Links to Previous Case
Harlingen Male 30, 59, 73, 76, 78, 80, 80, 92, 94 Links to Previous Case
La Feria Male 55 Link to Previous Case
La Feria Female 63 Community
Los Fresnos Female 15 Link to Previous Case
Rio Hondo Male 34 Link to Previous Case
San Benito Male 49 Link to Previous Case
San Benito Female 53 Link to Previous Case

Of these 27 cases, 14 are associated with Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare and nine are associated with Windsor Atrium. 

This raises the total number of COVID-19 to 147 in Cameron County. Of the 147 cases, 45 individuals have recovered.

There have now been five deaths related to COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley. 

Harlingen health officials concerned

Dr. Michael Mohun, health authority for the City of Harlingen, issued a directive Sunday that prevents nursing homes and long term health care facilities in the city from sharing health care staff and support staff.

The directive also prohibited the transfer of residents at nursing homes and long term health care facilities to other facilities.  

A news release from the City of Harlingen said Mohun was issuing the directive to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in the community. 

“Dr. Mohun’s directive is a result of the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases which the City has reason to believe is being caused by the movement of health care staff and health care support staff moving between different nursing homes and long term health care facilities, as well as to and from local health care facilities,” the City’s news release stated.

“This directive is effective immediately and failure to comply could result in civil and criminal enforcement action.”

The directive was issued under Section 81.082 of the Texas Health & Safety Code.

Vice President Pence

Many hundreds of residents at nursing homes across the country have tested positive for COVID-19. Dozens of them have died.

During a virtual town hall meeting about the coronavirus on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said Vice President Pence is very concerned. Gonzalez attended a meeting with Pence in early March.

“My last meeting with Vice President Pence was about a week before I came to our district,” Gonzalez said. “One of his major communications to the members of Congress was, make sure that nursing homes in your district know that they are being held to the highest scrutiny that they have ever been held to in this country.”

Gonzalez said nursing and rehabilitation centers “should expect to go through a lot of scrutiny” during the pandemic.

Dr. John H. Krouse, dean of UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine also spoke about patient safety at nursing homes during the virtual town hall meeting.

Krouse said it is important to have adequate personal protective equipment for staff working in nursing homes. He said the latest stimulus bill will help this regard.

“I know that the nursing homes in collaboration with our acute care hospitals are working hard to make sure that we limit the spread of the disease and take care of the elderly when they do, unfortunately, get infected,” Krouse said.