Virus testing completed at RGV nursing homes; results are pending

Testing of nursing home patients and staff has been completed in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Friday, with all test results expected by the end of next week.

Results for testing conducted at nursing homes under the directive of Gov. Greg Abbott began coming in last week, according Dr. Emilie Prot, regional medical director for Public Health Region 11, adding that there have been no new outbreaks in the area.

“We aren’t seeing large, large outbreaks — new outbreaks — in nursing homes from the testing that has been done,” Prot said during a weekly news conference call Friday morning. “We are still waiting for a few of the results to come back but compared to other regions, we aren’t in the same case scenario.”

In Region 11 — which encompasses 19 counties in South Texas, from north of Corpus Christi to Laredo and down to Brownsville — there were 2,574 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday morning.

Later that day, Hidalgo County reported 22 new cases, for a total of 701; Cameron County reported 22 more for a total of 863; Starr County reported four new cases, for a total of 48; and Willacy County reported one more for a total of 22 cases.

Of those, Hidalgo County has 268 active cases, Cameron has 248, and Starr County has 21 active cases.

Hidalgo and Willacy County each reported an additional death.

Valley-wide, DSHS reported there were 42 COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to Alberto Perez, incident commander for DSHS. That’s up from the 35 hospitalizations reported last week.

Perez added that in the previous 24 hours, 84 people with COVID-19 had presented to an emergency room and eight people had been admitted into an intensive care unit.

That’s also an increase from last week, when 65 people had presented to an emergency room and three such patients were admitted to an intensive care unit during the same time last week.

Prot noted that there was an increase in hospitalizations in Hidalgo County but said health officials weren’t seeing an increase in fatalities.

“We have maybe less than 10% of the patients that are hospitalized,” Prot said. “The majority are doing well at home and that’s important to communicate.”

“I think we have a very good team,” Prot added. “UTRGV with their testing has really increased that turnaround time so we have a region that is resourceful and we are getting through this.”

A lab at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is part of a task force processing COVID-19 tests that have been administered across the state. Currently, they’re processing between 1,000 and 1,500 tests on a daily basis.

Health officials added that, with their partnership with UTRGV, the turnaround time for test results has gone down to three to four days.

While many of those pending results include those administered at nursing homes, some have already been disclosed, including five positive cases at a nursing home in Alamo.

Touchstone Communities, which owns The Heights of Alamo Nursing Home, issued a statement Friday confirming that four residents and one employee tested positive for the disease.

A lot of the new cases, Prot noted, come from the same households or families.

“So that indicates that people are gathering within families,” she said. “There’s been a lot of graduations these past couple of weeks, there’s been Memorial Day, so these are the reasons that we can suspect that are causing some of the increase in numbers.”

Despite an increase in cases in the area, Prot said the region was doing well but simultaneously reminded people to continue employing safety measures to prevent spreading or getting the disease.

“We need to still, still continue to be cautious,” she said.