Photo: Fran Ruchalski/The Enterprise
Changes to the way the state reports the number of people infected with and killed by COVID-19 has given Jefferson County residents a better look at the virus’ spread in local assisted living and nursing homes.
As of Monday, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is releasing, by facility, the number of active and cumulative cases of coronavirus in residents and staff. It also lists the number of coronavirus-related deaths and recoveries of residents of those facilities.
According to the data, the virus has hit local nursing homes much worse than assisted-living facilities, with no virus-related deaths reported at assisted-living facilities compared to nine in nursing homes.
The state data lag by two weeks the numbers that local communities release daily. This allows Health and Human Services staff to review and correct clerical or reporting errors.
As of July 14, the state data show, five staff members and residents of assisted-living facilities in Jefferson County had coronavirus. An additional resident had recovered.
By comparison, 90 coronavirus infections were reported among residents and staff members at local nursing homes as of that date, and 27 remained active.
In a news release this week announcing the change, the state agency said it has the “legal and ethical obligation” to protect the private health information of everyone it serves. However, guidance from the state Attorney General allowed them to release this data while still maintaining that privacy.
Also this week, the Department of State Health Services updated the way it was identifying virus-related deaths. Health officials have now opted to report them based on death certificates instead of reports from individual counties, as it had previously been relying on.
Death certificates are required by law to be submitted within 10 days.
Although this revealed an additional 700 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths across the state of Texas, death counts for Jefferson County on Tuesday afternoon seemed to lag behind.
The state was reporting 58 virus-related deaths. However, four more reported Tuesday – three in Beaumont and an additional in Port Neches – brings the county to a total of 62.
The state updates its data at 4 p.m. It’s unclear when death certificates are filed, but the Beaumont and Port Arthur public health departments generally release their updated information after 4 p.m. each day.