To protect older, medically fragile individuals from COVID-19, Texas Health and
Human Services (HHS) has issued updated, expanded guidance to nursing homes
that now includes restricting facility access to staff, certain medical
professionals, and other providers of essential services.
“At the direction of Governor Greg Abbott and effective immediately, we are now
requiring nursing facilities to prevent non-essential visitors from access
given the significant health and safety risk to residents posed by COVID-19,”
said David Kostroun, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Regulatory Services.
“These measures are precautionary and based on the state disaster declaration
made by Governor Abbott, as well as new federal guidance.”
Until further notice, nursing facilities are encouraged to use alternate means
of communication such as FaceTime, Skype, or other video or audio systems for
residents to maintain contact with family and friends. “We understand how
difficult these new restrictions will be for residents and their families and
loved ones,” Kostroun said. “First and foremost, we must all share the goal of
protecting the people who are proving to be most vulnerable to this new virus.”
Nursing facilities must also implement screening protocols for anyone entering
their facility. They must screen staff, medical professionals, and other
essential visitors for COVID-19 using guidelines issued by the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services. Only under certain compassionate
care situations, such as a resident’s end-of-life, can non-essential visitors
be allowed in a nursing facility, and the facility must follow all CMS
Texas HHS is working closely with the Office of the Governor, the Department of
State Health Services (DSHS), the Texas Department of Emergency Management, and
other state and federal agencies to monitor and assess the coronavirus outbreak
in the U.S.
Additionally, HHSC staff are conducting targeted inspections of facilities with
a history of infection control deficiencies in the previous three years.
Long-term care facilities in Texas are required to maintain strong infection
prevention and control programs to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
If a facility believes a resident, visitor, or employee might have been exposed
or infected with COVID-19, it is required to immediately report it to their
local health department or to DSHS.
Texas HHS is also requiring facilities to post signs at the entrance about
access restrictions; check for fever of visitors, staff, and residents; suspend
group gatherings; continue to monitor and isolate residents with fever or acute
respiratory symptoms; provide infection control training to staff; execute
frequent handwashing; and provide personal protective equipment to residents or
staff as needed. For more information, visit the CDC’s site.
During this rapidly evolving situation, the agency will be issuing updated and
additional infection control guidance for other licensed entities such as
general and psychiatric hospitals, child care operations, and long-term care
facilities. Providers are encouraged to stay up-to-date on the latest guidance
by visiting the Texas HHS COVID-19 page.
Texas HHS licenses and regulates 1,222 nursing facilities throughout the state.
For health-related information and general precautions on COVID-19, visit the DSHS website
and the CDC page.