Coronavirus cases surge to 39 at living facility for Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Denton State Supported Living Center CN TT
The Denton State Supported Living Center has more than 400 residents and 1,400 staff members. Cooper Neill for The Texas Tribune

More than 30 additional cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the Denton State Supported Living Center, Denton County Judge Andy Eads said Friday.

During a live-streamed update Friday afternoon Eads said an additional 31 patients or residents were stricken with the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. One employee who doesn’t reside in the county is also infected. The new cases bring the new total for the facility to 39, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The center serves more than 400 people with disabilities and it employees about 1,400 staff members.

That new caseload brings Denton County’s total to 137 cases, the judge said. They include infections in the previously unaffected municipalities of Argyle, Corinth, Roanoke and Krum.

“This disease and its spread is not strictly to our urbanized areas but it actually is spreading county-wide and I think that is of note,” he said.

Also Friday, Lubbock officials announced that six residents at the Whisperwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center there had tested positive for the new coronavirus after two employees there also tested positive earlier in the week.

The new cases at both facilities come as a national shortage of personal protective equipment spurs fear among Texas health care workers that they may have to battle the worst of the new coronavirus outbreak without the masks, gowns and gloves needed to keep them safe.

Some small, rural Texas hospitals say they have so little protective gear that it could be exhausted in hours by even a few COVID-19 patients. Even bigger hospitals, which say their supplies are sufficient for now, don’t know how they will be able to replenish stocks as patient counts grow.

Some Texas hospitals are erecting tents, planning to add beds and eyeing vacated buildings as overflow facilities while they prepare for what may be a deluge of COVID-19 patients.

Earlier this week, Denton Mayor Chris Watts and Judge Eads asked Gov. Greg Abbott to build a temporary site on the supported living center’s grounds, saying that the nearly 2,000 people who live or work at the Denton facility were at “great risk” of becoming sick.

“In such an event, the local medical capacity could be quickly overwhelmed,” they wrote.

Four EMT units were onsite outside the hospital to serve the center and help ease the strain to local hospitals, NBCDFW reported.

At least 653 of the 1,731 cases of the new coronavirus cases Texas has reported as of Friday come from Denton and six other North Texas counties.

Neighboring Dallas County, that region’s most populous county, has had at least 367 cases. Officials there plan to strengthen the medical response needed by building a temporary 250-bed hospital and use National Guard medical personnel to help identify people who have been in contact with anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus.

Source: Texas Tribune