Nearly all COVID-19-related deaths in Lubbock at nursing homes - FOX34 Lubbock

Nearly all COVID-19-related deaths in Lubbock at nursing homes

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are the center of COVID-19 in Lubbock, making up nearly half of all cases and all but one of related deaths.

"The nursing home outbreaks in our community are deeply concerning," said Katherine Wells, Lubbock public health director. She said social distancing is difficult at these facilities and it is a serious challenge to control the spread of the virus once it has entered.

Of the city's confirmed 307 COVID-19 cases, Wells said 85 are people who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility. Another 60 are employees of these facilities.

Click here - for much more data on city's COVID-19 dashboard.
Click here - to watch video of today's news conference

Wells urged everyone to "stay the course", citing two additional COVID-19-related deaths reported Sunday. She said changes implemented at the federal, state and local level "may be a burden, but they serve a purpose. Everyone needs to be safe." Wells said testing has expanded to several locations throughout the county, including drive-through screenings provided by Covenant Health and UMC.

Mayor Dan Pope said testing per capita in Lubbock County is roughly twice the state average. Of tests performed here, about 10 percent are confirmed positive cases, which the mayor said is a little below the state average. 

All but one of the city's 16 deaths attributed to COVID-19 are related to a nursing home or long-term care facility. Of these 16 people, Wells said their ages were:
50s - 1 person
60s - 3 people
70s - 3 people
Over 80 years old - 9 people

There are now 72 people who tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered. Wells said some essential employees who have recovered have been able to return to work. Also, everyone who was among cases reported in the first five days have all been released and are listed as recovered. 

Dr. Ronald Cook, D.O., public health authority, said the rate that cases double in Lubbock is about 3.5 days, which he categorized as "pretty good". Within nursing homes here cases double in about three days, compared to within the community excluding nursing homes at about 4.5 days.

Dr. Cook said large cities on the West and East Coast are ahead of Lubbock in its progress through the curve. The average doubling rate in New York City is around 9 days. He said New York City's first case was confirmed March 1; Lubbock's was March 17.

Cook said hospital emergency rooms and clinics are "amazingly quiet". He said there is concern people with chronic health conditions are not seeking medical treatment because they are trying to avoid the doctor's office or hospital. Dr. Cook said it's important to keep an open line of communication with your health care provider. But, regarding symptoms of fever, coughing, sneezing and other symptoms, "if you're ill, please stay home," Dr. Cook said.

Mayor Dan Pope said, as a whole, Lubbock is following guidance to stay home and socially distance. "We're getting better at this," Mayor Pope said.

Pope said there are no plans to life the stay-at-home order that runs through the end of the month. "We've got to make certain that we stay safe for this next 17, 18 days so that we can begin to restart [businesses]." The mayor said there are a number of factors when determining when businesses deemed "non-essential" can re-open. These include the infection rate, new case rate and several health metrics. 

Mayor Pope said there will be announcement this week for a process to re-open more businesses in the near future, but do not expect immediate changes. "We reported 37 new cases yesterday. It's not responsible to re-open right now and I think the governor's order and our order are consistent in that regard."

Focusing on nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Lubbock, Mayor Pope said there are about 3,500 employees and about 4,000 residents, which account for about 2.5 percent of the county's population. He said a wall can't be built around these places, to keep them safe. 

"These workers come home to their families, they have to go meet their needs for essential services, just like you and I do. It's a very difficult chore keeping them safe and their families safe and, effectively, us safe." 

"As a community we value the sanctity of human life. Every life. The people...our neighbors that are in our nursing homes are our parents and our grandparents," Pope said. "We need to do all we can to keep them safe."

With data through Sunday, showing 16 deaths, Lubbock County was fifth in the state in deaths with a connection to COVID-19. In parenthesis are 2019 population estimates from the state of Texas, followed by the number of deaths per county:
Harris (4.7 million) - 44
Bexar (1.9 million) - 31
Dallas (2.6 million) -  27
Tarrant (2.1 million) - 25
Lubbock (307,870) - 16
Denton (861,357) - 13
Brazos (228,292) - 11
Fort Bend (786,213) - 11
Travis (1.2 million) - 9
Collin (1 million) - 8
Galveston (339,241) - 8
Webb (281,964) - 8

 Statewide, through Saturday, there were 287 deaths reported. There are 13,906 confirmed cases across Texas; of this number, 2,269 have recovered. 1,176 people are in the hospital with a confirmed COVID-19 positive test result. More details at the Texas COVID-19 dashboard
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