When active cases of COVID-19 started creeping up in June, most newly-infected people were under age 30 and experienced mild symptoms of the respiratory illness. Lubbock Health Authority Dr. Ron Cook was already worrying about a different age group.
“At some point, we’re going to get it back into a vulnerable patient population, and that’s what makes us the most nervous," he said in a June interview with Texas Tech Public Media.
A month later, that’s what’s happened.
“We’ve had a couple of nursing home outbreaks where we have seen infection among individuals that are residents of those facilities," said City of Lubbock Health Director Katherine Wells at a Tuesday news conference. “We are working very closely with those facilities to make sure all of their residents are tested and also that employees are tested.”
In April, almost half of Lubbock’s COVID-19 cases and nearly all deaths were tied to nursing home facilities. Those outbreaks cleared up, and when the state mandated testing at long-term care centers earlier this summer, no other hot spots were found.
Then last week, almost 70 people tested positive for COVID-19 across three nursing homes in Lubbock. That ticked up to 117 residents and employees on Tuesday. Since living centers are still locked down to visitors, it’s likely the virus was brought in through workers.
Cook said the highly-contagious virus is easy to spread in nursing homes, where close-up interaction between caregivers and residents is required.
“We know that our loved ones that are in nursing homes are much more vulnerable," Cook said. "They just don’t have the compensatory mechanisms to fight the fight that is required to win the battle with COVID.”
Pete Gotsis has been worried for months that his 84-year-old mother, Frances, who has dementia and lives in a Lubbock care center, would get coronavirus. She was diagnosed last week.
“They said she was doing good," Gotsis said. "She’s in good spirits. They said she ate this morning like, you know, she never ate before.”
He can't visit his mom due to current restrictuons, so checking-in is really all he can do. He calls daily.
“I lose sleep over it, I’ll be honest with you," Gotsis said. "She’s got dementia, one, and now this. You don’t know what’s wrong with you. You don’t know what’s happening to you. You don’t understand. I can only imagine what she’s going through.
“All we can do is ask the Lord to help and maybe things will get better.”