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A COVID-19 outbreak at a South Temple long-term care facility grew to 27 people Monday as Bell County added 34 new cases since Saturday, according to officials.

At least 18 residents and nine employees at Weston Inn Nursing & Rehabilitation, 2505 S. 37th St., have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Caraday Healthcare, a San Marcos-based company that manages 13 communities in Texas. Those new infections are part of the county’s 367 cases.

This eruption of COVID-19 comes almost two weeks after three employees at the facility tested positive for the virus. Everyone at the facility was tested May 16. They were tested again over the weekend.

Amanda Robison-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, was first notified about a potential rash of cases Friday morning. A Weston resident had been hospitalized and was in an intensive care unit, she said.

“Shortly thereafter we got a call from Weston themselves asking what the next step should be,” Robison-Chadwell said during an online news conference from the Bell County Courthouse. “We started working with Baylor Scott & White and local partners to mass test them now that they have another positive. Later that afternoon, the next report of the next case came around 7 o’clock.”

Bell County Judge David Blackburn said an effort to get the situation under control started late Friday. The effort was between the health district, Bell County Emergency Management Services, Baylor Scott & White and the state division of emergency management.

“The coordinated effort that has taken place led to the retesting of all residents and staff at that location,” Blackburn said.

By late Friday, the nursing home — which is one of 16 in the county — had an additional case and snowballed to the current number.

That night also brought Bell County’s fourth COVID-19-related death, a woman in her 90s who was a Weston resident.

So far, 148 tests have been conducted at the nursing home, which is under lockdown right now. Still, 18 employees and contractors need to be tested, Robison-Chadwell said. They will not be allowed to return to work until they are confirmed to not have the coronavirus.

“We are monitoring everyone extremely closely and following our pre-established protocols that include implementing immediate and precautionary steps to ensure we stop the spread of the infection within our community,” Caraday Healthcare said in a statement. “Caraday is proactively working with public health agencies and medical providers, and we are monitoring the situation very closely.”

The virus could have entered the facility through a number of ways, the health district director explained.

“It could have been someone who didn’t realize they were sick. It could have been that early testing did not detect someone who would later become positive. There’s a variety of ways that could have happened,” Robison-Chadwell said. “Unfortunately, the virus is pretty sneaky.”

Caraday Healthcare will open a secure, isolation unit at Western Hills Nursing & Rehabilitation, 512 Draper Drive in Temple, the county judge said, reading a statement from the company. It will be available to the larger community, the statement read.

Blackburn also provided an update on the Bell County Jail, where only one employee has tested positive for the virus.

“We’re continuing our testing at the Bell County Jail,” the county judge said. “I’m expecting that process to be completed in the next 24, 48 hours.”

CORYELL, LAMPASAS COUNTIES

Coryell County reported a small decrease in its total coronavirus cases Monday, down three from 228 on Friday for a new total of 225.

Emergency Management Coordinator Robert Harrell said the decrease is due to three patients living in Copperas Cove who were initially counted by Coryell, but the patients were later discovered to technically be living within Lampasas County limits and they were thus removed from Coryell’s list.

Lampasas County Judge Randall Hoyer said his county remained at 10 cases Monday, with all patients having recovered from the coronavirus.

When asked if the count of 10 included the three patients in Copperas Cove, Hoyer said he could neither confirm nor deny their inclusion as he was not directly aware of where each patient was living.

Coryell County remains at two coronavirus-related deaths while Lampasas County remains at zero.

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