TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Four employees at a state veterans home near Tyler have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Texas General Land Office.
The employees work at the Watkins-Logan Texas State Veterans Home. It is located just off US HWY 271 near the UT Health Science Center. All the staff members have had contact with residents, so as a result, all residents were tested for the virus again on Monday.
Communications Director Karina Erickson said in a statement that no residents of the home had tested positive to this point and that “all protocols issued by the Center for Disease Control, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Department of Veterans Affairs are being followed.”
Residents are tested monthly, according to Erickson, and employees are tested bi-weekly or as needed. Erickson also said that none of the employees will be permitted to return to the home until a confirmed negative test is received.
The facility is part of the Texas State Veterans Homes which provided long-term care for Texas veterans, their spouses as well as Gold Star Parents. There are locations in the following cities:
- Big Spring
- El Paso
The home is currently under a strict, no visitor policy to protest the residents. All employees must undergo a temperature check before they enter and are screened for other potential symptoms.
Below is Erickson’s full statement that she provided to KETK News:
Texas State Veterans Homes provide affordable, long-term care for Texas Veterans, their spouses and Gold Star Parents. These homes are a place where honor lives, providing a community that allows Veterans to be surrounded by their fellow Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen. We have locations in Amarillo, Big Spring, Bonham, El Paso, Floresville, Houston, McAllen, Temple and Tyler. Our Veteran Homes are exceptionally high-risk facilities during COVID-19 and we are doing everything in our power to ensure the health and safety of America’s finest.
At the onset of COVID-19, the Veterans Land Board (VLB) took immediate proactive actions to mitigate the spread of the virus inside Texas State Veterans Homes. Of course, this disease has proven to be a serious health threat to nursing homes around the country. But the VLB has taken specific actions to protect our veterans. Early on, the VLB made the difficult decision to have to now tell our community that the Home was closed to visitation by family members only. Later, state and nationwide directives recommended prohibiting all visitors, including family members, from entering nursing facilities, with the VLB immediately adopting these policies.
As a further precaution, the VLB required our operator to ensure all staff and vendors undergo temperature checks and acknowledge that they did not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, prior to being allowed entry to a VLB facility. While the transition from a vibrant, community centric Home has been difficult for our Veterans and we faced considerable pushback against these policies, we strongly believe that these stringent, proactive steps have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in our Veteran Homes and have proven to be the right call.
In addition to VA and HHSC testing, the VLB procured our own COVID-19 test kits, lining up our own private option to expedite comprehensive testing across all nine of our homes. Residents are being tested for COVID-19 in the Tyler Home on a monthly basis. All staff in the Home is being tested on a biweekly, if not more frequent, basis. Already, this proactive testing has helped us to identify infected individuals who may not be exhibiting symptoms and helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Home.
The VLB has continued to take proactive actions, hiring a pandemic advisor who is currently reviewing and advising the response and directives to the Home operators regarding how we can further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our Homes. All visitation and screening policies are still in place, and all protocols issued by the Center for Disease Control, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Department of Veterans Affairs are being followed.