Virus spreads through Burnet nursing facility

  • Residents at Oaks Nursing Home underwent genetic tests to determine if the recent outbreak is a new strain of COVID-19. Contributed
    Residents at Oaks Nursing Home underwent genetic tests to determine if the recent outbreak is a new strain of COVID-19. Contributed

Burnet County health officials are awaiting the results of genetic testing to determine if a new variant of the novel coronavirus is present at a Burnet nursing home where 100 percent of the residents have now tested positive for COVID-19.

The genetic testing took place at the Oaks Nursing Home on Monday, Jan. 11, and the results are expected to take 1-2 weeks to return, said Burnet County Health Authority Dr. Juliette Madrigal.

“This is unprecedented and while this nursing home had previously had a smattering of cases, they had been following protocols and been doing really well,” Madrigal said. “Not only have all of the residents now tested positive for COVID-19, but much of the staff as well. We have gotten the state involved and in their investigation, they cannot find any deficiencies by the nursing home.

“We have not ever seen a spread of the virus like this; even when it was before we had the PPE (personal protection equipment) and good masks, it did not spread with this kind of efficiency,” Madrigal added. “This new strain doesn’t seem to be any more virulent and the variant doesn’t change the diagnostic testing or treatment that is performed, but it does allow it to spread easier and that makes it dangerous for any nursing home residents, especially as they all have comorbidities or underlying health problems.”

As of Jan. 19, the nursing home is now reported no new cases of COVID-19 and four staff members away from work due to a positive test or as a precautionary measure, according to the center’s website.

Madrigal said the nursing home has seen an increase in deaths due to COVID-19 in recent days and noted that those who died were “all quite ill already and on palliative care.”

“I cannot stand, however, whenever people say these people were going to die anyway, whether they got COVID-19 or not,” Madrigal said. “They all deserved to live as long as they possibly could and it is a tragedy if that was cut even just one day short.”

Madrigal warned residents to “be extra vigilant and know that this virus might spread more quickly than in the past.”

“We have been able to not quarantine so strictly lately, especially in our local schools,” Madrigal said. “If we have this variant locally, however, it may spread more readily and it takes less exposure to catch it. We definitely have to be more vigilant as far as spacing and mask wearing is concerned. Practice good handwashing and keep surfaces clean and for heaven’s sake, don’t touch your face. If your mask falls down easy, get yourself a new mask because your old one is making you touch your face over and over again!

“Don’t ease up yet; like Dr. Fauci has said, ‘Don’t be last man shot in the battle.’ We may be at a place with some relief in sight soon; we are getting all the nursing homes vaccinated as quickly as we can,” Madrigal said.