Nursing home reports COVID-19 case; Spanish Meadows resident transported back to hospital

A view of the the entrance to Spanish Meadows Nursing Center and Assisted Living in Brownsville Thursday, May 7, 2020, where a resident has tested positive for COVID-19.

Administrators at Spanish Meadows of Brownsville have reported the city’s first nursing facility-related COVID-19 case to Cameron County Public Health.

Ricardo Rodriguez, Spanish Meadows administrator, told the Herald that a resident between the ages of 70 and 75 and showing no symptoms of the virus was recently admitted to the facility from a hospital and, per protocol, was tested for COVID-19 and kept in strict isolation. When the virus test came back positive, the resident was transported back to the hospital for further testing and was admitted.

“ Spanish Meadows continues to follow the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) procedures, and we are taking a proactive approach by testing employees and residents,” Rodriguez said. “All families of the residents are being contacted. The safety of our residents and our staff is really our number one priority.”

He declined to identify the resident’s gender, and said the facility would release further information as it becomes available.

“ All I can tell you is I want our residents to be safe,” Rodriguez said.

CCPH Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said her department learned of the Spanish Meadows case Thursday morning and is in the process of collecting medical records and lab results from the hospital and the provider who was caring for the patient “just so we can get a good of what’s going on.”

“ We’re still in the beginning phases,” she said. “We’re trying to determine where the person was and the dates and all that information that we require to determine, one, the source exposure and, two, to determine who the person was in contact with.”

CCPH is also gathering information on the layout of the facility and where the resident was located, Guajardo said.

“ We’re in the middle of getting all that information and talking to the staff,” she said. “I myself have spoken to the administrator and I know they’re doing everything they can. They’re being very proactive to contain this. … It’s unfortunate that it’s one of those situations where these nursing homes, they tend to deal with a population that the virus impacts most, and Spanish Meadows is no exception. We’re hoping it’s going to be an isolated case, because they were able to jump on this very quickly in terms of testing, getting testing in there immediately.”

Two nursing homes in Harlingen, Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare and Windsor Atrium, account for 37 percent of the county’s 469 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and all but one of the 19 deaths related to the virus. Guajardo said lessons learned from those outbreaks is helping other nursing facilities respond better and faster to the virus, adding that the county regularly communicates with nursing homes around the state on COVID-19 protocols, including how to properly “doff and don” Personal Protective Equipment and recognize virus signs and symptoms.

She said that ideally everyone at every nursing facility in the county would be tested on a regular basis, though the resources simply aren’t there.

“ Obviously if it were up to me I’d test everybody all the time everywhere if I could, but that’s not realistic,” Guajardo said. “That would be the ideal. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that we get to that day a lot sooner than later.”

She said nursing homes are a “priority group” for her department, and that after working with the two Harlingen nursing homes she understands that facilities are doing all they can to stave off what Guajardo described as a “quick and silent” deadly virus.

“ What I want the public to understand is these nursing homes are not doing a bad job,” she said. “It has nothing to do with this. It’s the virus that we’re dealing with. It’s the bad situation that we’re dealing with. They’re doing everything they can to prevent them from having a case.”