Isolation facilities set up in Austin to help shelter COVID-19 nursing home patients

Officials are stepping up their actions to help protect those most susceptible to catching and being hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

A new Austin Public Health Task Force for Nursing Homes has been set up and it's setting up sites to house nursing home patients who test positive for COVID-19 but do not need hospitalization or who have been discharged.

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The nursing home isolation facilities will have about 100 beds and give patients a secure place to recover while keeping other nursing home residents and staff safe.

Officials say that one of the locations is expected to be operational soon and be available for incoming patients, which includes two nursing home residents who tested positive late last week. The investigation into how those residents were exposed to the resident is still ongoing.

Austin Public Health continues to urge healthy and younger people in Austin-Travis County to do more to help safeguard the area's older population. Figures show that half of those testing positive for COVID-19 are between the ages of 20 and 40.

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“Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, says in a news release. “It is critical that you do your part to slow the spread of this virus.”

Most people get only mild symptoms from COVID-19 but it's a significant danger to vulnerable populations, like older people and those with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that people age 65 and over make up almost half (45%) of hospitalization and 80% of the deaths associated with COVID-19 in the U.S.

Austin Public Health began taking proactive measures to avoid spread in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, on March 11 through a Health Authority Control Order. The order mandated several specified actions including temperature-checking all employees, patients, visitors and volunteers prior to entry to facilities.

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Suggestions to protect yourself if you're a person at higher risk of getting severe symptoms from COVID-19 include: 

  • Ensure adequate supplies of medication and essentials.
  • 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 gatherings as much as possible.
  •  Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.

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Austin Public Health is also continuing to ask the wider community to take every day 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.



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