AUSTIN, Texas - A health authority control order has been issued to more than 300 facilities in Austin-Travis County serving elderly individuals or people with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to infection or respiratory disease.
The Austin-Travis County interim health authority has ordered nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities to take a range of immediate actions to enhance protections against the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.
Dr. Mark Escott sent a health authority control order on Wednesday.
Similar to influenza, COVID-19 has had greater impacts on vulnerable populations, including those who are over the age of 70, and those who have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. The number of people over 70 years old in Austin-Travis County is estimated to be 80,000 - about 6% of the population.
Dr. Escott's control order mandates a number of specified actions aimed at slowing the spread and reducing the impact of the disease:
- "Help Prevent Disease" signage provided by Austin Public Health must be displayed prominently in the facility.
- Hand sanitizer must be available and supplied to employees, patients, visitors, and volunteers.
- The facility must temperature check all employees, patients, visitors, and volunteers prior to entry to the facility.
- The facility may not admit any individual to the facility with a temperature of 100.4◦F or above.
- Any unexplained febrile illness (≥100.4◦F) of facility employees, patients, visitors or volunteers must be reported to the Austin Public Health Epidemiologist On Call as soon as possible.
The order does not impact City of Austin senior centers and other public facilities serving adults 50+. Austin Public Health will continue to assess the need for additional control measures to other communities as the COVID-19 situation develops.
"This is an important step to protect the most vulnerable as we prepare for the potential of COVID-19 reaching our community," Dr. Escott said. "For most of us, symptoms can be mild, but if it spreads to an elderly person or someone with underlying health issues, it has the potential to be deadly. Our staff members are working 24/7 to protect all of our loved ones and it starts with focusing our efforts on those who are the most vulnerable to this virus."
People at higher risk of getting severe symptoms from COVID-19 should:
- Stock up on supplies
- Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds as much as possible.
- Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
Austin Public Health is continuing to ask the wider community to take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of disease, including:
- Wash your hands
- Cover sneezes and coughs with a bent elbow or tissue
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home when you're sick
- Don't visit a loved one in a nursing home if you are experiencing symptoms. If you are a caretaker, be sure to establish a plan in the event you are sick.