Demand grows for COVID-19 units for senior citizens at long-term care facilities

For the sixth day in a row, Dallas County reported more than 1,000 cases.

The county added 1,029 cases and 16 additional deaths on Wednesday. About a third of deaths in Dallas county are linked to long-term care facilities.

The list of long-term care facilities starting COVID units for senior citizens continues to grow. Another three were added on Tuesday. Some are at capacity.

With COVID-19 cases surging in Dallas County, some long-term care facilities are answering a desperate call for help.

Ashley Green runs the COVID unit at Presbyterian Village North in Dallas. The long-term care facility was one of the first in the county to be designated to operate a stand-alone unit. Last month, it was 50 percent full. Currently, it's at capacity with 16 patients.

“It's sort of disheartening at the same time because we have not had everybody survive,” Green said.

In June, just five long-term care facilities were designated to operate COVID units. As of Wednesday, Dallas County says there are 14.

Speaking on Good Day Wednesday, Benjamin Neuman, a top coronavirus researcher, said the need for front-line workers during this pandemic is great.

“First, people get sick. Then it takes about two weeks until the hospital start to fill up. And then deaths are going to lag another week or two weeks behind that,” he said. “So I fear that the worst is still coming unfortunately.”

“We saw a big uptick in assisted living facilities around the DFW area right when we opened the unit,” said Joni Watson, the director of healthcare operations for Presbyterian Village North. “So we were able to take many from those communities and memory care because they may not have the skilled nursing level of care that we have at our community.”

In order to receive county designation for one of these units, facilities must demonstrate they can isolate COVID patients. The unit must have a separate entrance and exit, and designated staff must have personal protective equipment.

Green says the work can be draining but added that the staff at her COVID unit lean on one another for strength and support.

“I do not regret running a COVID unit,” she said. “I would do it again. I would say yes 100 times.”

Green says seeing her patients improve and go home gives her and her staff the drive to carry on with this difficult task. She says they often receive food and thank you cards from grateful family members.