Rehab center cases increase: Seven confirmed positives at nursing facility

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases connected to Veranda Rehabilitation and Health Care in Harlingen has risen to seven from three on Tuesday, according to Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

The seven cases are among nine COVID-19 cases confirmed since Wednesday, he said. Five of the cases are Veranda employees, one is a 75-year-old patient and one an employee’s family member, Treviño said.

“We continue to work with the facility on the contact tracing and testing of the patients and employees as needed,” he said. “Employees showing signs and symptoms are not working. Patients are being monitored and measures have been implemented to limit transmission to others, including monitoring all patients for signs and symptoms and the use of (personal protective equipment) at all times. Families of the patients have been informed and our county public health dept continues with the investigation.”

The county is up to 46 confirmed cases, including a 9-year-old. The first confirmed cases, a couple from Michigan staying on South Padre Island, were reported on March 18. Treviño said the number of cases in the county is close to quadrupling over the span of a week.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that we finally got a lot more testing available,” he said. “I want to thank Mayor Mendez and the city of Brownsville for instituting their drive-through. My understanding is tests are becoming more prevalent and available to physicians and clinics and that’s why we’re able to test more people.”

The city so far has tested 469 residents, turning up 10 positives, or 2.1 percent of those tested, Treviño said.

Eighteen of the county’s cases are from Brownsville, 13 from Harlingen, four from San Benito, three from Rancho Viejo and Los Fresnos, two from Rio Hondo and Santa Rosa and one from Laguna Vista, he said. Treviño thanked county residents who are abiding by measures in place to stem the spread of the virus.

Out of the 46 cases, 29 are in self-isolation, nine have been cleared of the virus and eight are in the hospital: four at Valley Baptist Medical Center Harlingen, two at Harlingen Medical Center, and one each at VBMC Brownsville and Valley Regional Medical Center, he said.

Treviño reminded the public to shelter-in-place and limit travel to essential activities such as buying groceries or medicine, in keeping with mandatory orders implemented by the county.

“Everybody should know what’s essential,” he said. “We’ve been talking about it for weeks. Buying your food, going to the doctor, getting your medicine, taking your children to pick up their meals from the school district, going to and from work if it’s an essential business. Other than that you shouldn’t have to leave the house.”

Anyone still wondering what is considered an activity and what is not can read the county’s amended shelter-in-place order at

Treviño said he’s not aware of any breach of protocol that led to the spread of the virus at Veranda, but that the county is reviewing its guidelines for rehab centers, nursing homes and adult day care centers to see if additional rules are warranted in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

“I’m not going to say that there might not have been,” he said. “We became aware of this I believe on Saturday. As soon as we became aware of it we jumped on a call, we got everybody that needed to be on there involved and engaged. From that point forward I know that we’ve been doing everything we can. I hope and I pray that there was not a breakdown of protocol.

“If one gets sick, either an employee or a patient, obviously it has the potential to create a bigger problem. So we’re making sure that we’re up to date on the guidelines and making sure that they’re practicing all of the proper protocols that are already in place, and maybe need to be amended because of the uniqueness COVID-19.”