Health leaders in Lamar County are investigating an outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus linked to a Paris nursing home.
Testing on Saturday revealed 47 positive cases associated with the Paris Healthcare Nursing Home, according to epidemiologist Mark Lueke with the Paris-Lamar County Health District. Those positive cases include 14 staff members and 33 of the facility’s 38 residents, or 87%.
Trista Spiva's aunt is one of those residents who tested positive for the virus.
"You hear about it and you see people that have it but when it comes to your family member it kind of changes," Spiva said.
Due to visitor restrictions, Spiva's family has not been inside the facility for weeks and said they've yet to be notified by the nursing home about their aunt's condition. They only found out after news of the outbreak was posted by the county health department online and called their aunt. She told family she was not showing any symptoms when she was tested on Saturday, but now has a fever.
"It’s kind of the unknown that’s a little scary but we’re going to keep in contact with her every day to see how she’s doing," Spiva said.
Lueke said residents of the nursing home who tested positive have been separated from those who did not test positive and they are currently working with the Paris Healthcare Nursing Home and Texas Health and Human Services to put together a team to do an on-site inspection.
Most surprising, Lueke said, were that the majority of the people who tested positive were asymptomatic and showed no signs of fever or respiratory symptoms. He urged residents in Lamar County to practice social distancing and to wear masks in public to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
The Paris-Lamar County Health District is currently contacting all infected staff members and informing them to self-quarantine and check in regularly regarding any onset of symptoms.
Lueke said the decision to test everyone inside the long-term care facility came after a resident was admitted to the hospital for an unrelated health issue and was tested for COVID-19. That patient’s positive test prompted the health department to set-up a drive-thru testing site for the facility’s staff on Saturday and send a small team inside the facility to test residents.
Due to the outbreak, the city of Paris canceled their drive-thru antibody testing that was set to begin this week and will be holding a city council meeting tonight.
“All of our resources must be focused on this outbreak,” said Paris Mayor Dr. Steven Clifford in a Facebook post Sunday night. “I know that many of you were planning on getting tested next week, but we obviously must focus all of our resources on containing this outbreak.”
“The virus has seemed distant to most people in our community,” Clifford wrote. “We all figured that everything was overstated and overblow. Many decided that they didn’t even need to wear masks. Now we know that many people who were infected with the virus and had no symptoms have been in numerous public places throughout our community.”
Like most smaller communities across Texas, COVID-19 testing is sparse and reserved for those seriously ill. Mayor Clifford said city leaders have reached out to state lawmakers to push for more available testing in Paris and Lamar County.
NBC5 reached out to Paris Healthcare and received this statement from spokesperson Taylor Pittman, Director of Communications for Senior Living Properties:
Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our residents and staff. During the past month, we have implemented a number of new measures, special processes, and extraordinary precautions across our center. Unfortunately, despite these safeguards, Paris Healthcare Center had residents and staff members test positive for COVID-19 in the past 48 hours. All of our center residents and their emergency contacts were immediately notified of the situation. We are working quickly to minimize the spread to anyone else and have taken the following actions to that end:
- We have set up a separate and isolated unit within the building for residents that test positive to provide them the best care and to protect others. Residents that need more specialized care are receiving treatment at Paris Regional Medical Center.
- The staff for this unit, equipped with proper PPE, will enter and exit through a completely separate doorway from the rest of the center.
- The medical director on staff will monitor residents’ symptoms around the clock.
Additionally, after consulting with city officials and the Paris-Lamar Health District, and out of an abundance of caution, a decision was made to test all residents and employees at the center. Some of those results are still pending.
We know this is a very challenging and scary situation for our residents, their families and our employees. We want to thank the community for their prayers and support, and we are committed to providing the very best care as we all work together to combat this crisis.
Stay with NBCDFW.com for this developing story.