Probe links virus cases between Veranda, Atrium facilities

HARLINGEN — A health care worker carried the coronavirus from a Harlingen nursing home to a rehabilitation center here, Cameron County’s health administrator said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño issued an emergency management order aimed at nursing homes and “other long-term care facilities.”

Officials are trying to determine the identify of the health care worker who carried the COVID-19 virus from the Veranda Healthcare & Rehabilitation to Windsor Atrium, Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said.

“That seems to be the exposure at Windsor,” Guajardo said. “We’re still investigating to try to determine. There seems to be something going on across nursing homes. They share staff.”

Officials are investigating whether a health care worker at Veranda, where at least three COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, infected patients at Windsor, where five cases have been confirmed.

Monday, officials confirmed an 81-year-old man who contracted the virus at Veranda died at Valley Baptist Medical Center, becoming the county’s first confirmed death stemming from the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Windsor Atrium Administrator Sandra Basaldua told patients’ families of two confirmed virus cases at the rehab center.

“We have just learned that two patients have tested positive for COVID-19,” she wrote. “Efforts to mange this development include following the guidelines provided by the Centers for Medicine and Medicaid Services on the restriction of visitation to essential health care personnel only which has been in place since March 13, 2020 and further guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

On Monday night, county health officials reported 14 new cases, including five connected to Windsor Atrium. On Tuesday an additional seven cases were reported in the county.

Of the seven cases related to Windsor Atrium, five are residents and two are employees.

City order prohibits staff sharing

At City Hall, officials expressed concern nursing home health care workers “moving between different nursing homes and long-term care facilities” are behind a spike in COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, Dr. Michael Mohan, the city’s newly appointed health authority, released orders prohibiting the city’s nursing homes and rehabilitation centers from sharing health care staff and transferring residents to other facilities.

“Dr. Mohan’s directive is a result of the recent spike in COVID-19 positive cases, which the city has reason to believe is being caused by the movement of health care staff and health care support staff moving between different nursing homes and long-term care facilities, as well as to and from health care facilities,” city spokeswoman Irma Garza stated in the press release.

“This directive is effective immediately and failure to comply could result in civil and criminal enforcement action,” she stated.

Veranda’s response

On Tuesday, staff at Windsor Atrium declined to comment on the cases.

On Monday, Veranda Administrator Jason Hess stated the nursing home continues to comply with requirements.

“As far as the recent health control directive issued by the city of Harlingen, we understand and respect the city’s position,” Hess stated.

“Several of the referenced interventions have previously been the subject of CMS or CDC guidance. With respect to those protocols, Veranda Rehabilitation and Healthcare has been fully compliant since the time the guidance was originally received (if not before),” Hess stated.

“The facility has always had a robust infection prevention and control plan in place and has expanded this plan in response to the corona virus situation,” he stated. “We are fully committed to taking action consistent with federal, state and city directives and with keeping our residents and staff safe during these challenging times.”