Austin Public Health says it’s investigating nine clusters of COVID-19 in the Austin-Travis County area. One was recognized last week at The Salvation Army's downtown Austin shelter, and the others are among eight senior living communities or long-term care facilities, the city said in a press release Sunday evening.
A cluster is defined as three or more positive cases of the disease in one location. APH says clusters do not pose a significant risk to the community, since there is already significant community spread across Austin.
Fourteen of the 25 people who have died from COVID-19 in Austin-Travis County were residents of senior living communities, according to APH.
“We believe there is more the community can do to eliminate the transmission of COVID-19, and this includes cocooning the locations of the most vulnerable populations,” said Austin-Travis County’s Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.
Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are considered to be more at risk of developing complications with COVID-19.
APH has taken several steps to prevent and mitigate the spread of disease in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. In March, the agency mandated that these facilities screen all employees, volunteers and visitors before they enter, and began setting up isolation facilities for nursing home patients who test positive for the disease.
The eight clusters in senior living or long-term care facilities are in the following general areas:
- 1 in North Austin
- 2 in Central Austin
- 2 in South Austin
- 1 in Southeast Austin
- 2 in Southwest Austin
When a cluster at a nursing home is discovered, the Infectious Disease Response Unit goes to the facility to test patients and staff, according to the city's press release. Personal protective equipment is also sent to the facility to help control the spread. Patients who test positive are isolated from others, and staff members who test positive cannot return to work until their quarantine period is over.
The cluster at the Salvation Army Austin’s downtown shelter led to its closure last weekend. Twelve people there tested positive for COVID-19. People staying at the shelter were moved to a city-leased hotel.
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