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How One Long-Term Care Facility is Keeping its Residents and Employees Safe While Opening Up to Visitations

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Cypress Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in San Marcos, Texas has opened its doors to visitations, but only scheduled visitors are allowed inside. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

As more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine, many long-term care facilities have seen a decrease in COVID-19 positive cases. Although only 38% of nursing home staff have opted in to get the vaccine, coronavirus cases have dropped 83% over the past year. With the decline of COVID-19 cases, one facility has opened its doors to visitors again. 

As a certified nursing assistant (CNA), the focus when working in a long-term care facility will be its residents. One nursing home, Cypress Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in San Marcos, Texas, had over 15 workers who were out on quarantine from contracting coronavirus during the course of the pandemic. The spread of the virus not only put many workers at fear for their own life, but the life of their residents as well. 

Cypress Healthcare lost over 20 residents due to the virus and the fast spread from within the six-hallway building. Between employees, residents and family member from the outside, Cypress Healthcare had to deal with many changes in a short amount of time. 

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Brian Smith, an agency CNA, washing his hands after helping a resident on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Cypress Healthcare employees are advised to wash their hands frequently, even though many have been doing that since before coronavirus was a national issue. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

One worker, Brian Smith, is an agency CNA at Cypress Healthcare, meaning he travels to different nursing home facilities throughout the states and works for a certain period of time. During his time at Cypress Healthcare, Smith said it is good to finally allow family members back in the building. “I think it’s good for family members to come see the patients because it’s important to them, you know?” said Brian. 

Smith recalls when coronavirus first became a serious problem for nursing home facilities, making many of them close its door to visitors. “No one was able to come it was just people coming to the window,” said Brian, “and you couldn’t even put the window up at the time.” 

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Smith checking his temperature before leaving his shift at Cypress, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

When residents and workers started to contract COVID-19, Cypress Healthcare had to change its protocols when working in the facility around COVID-19 positive residents. The facility made workers wear N95 masks, face shields, medical gowns, shoes covers and gloves during their whole shift, along with temperature checks at the door. Cypress Healthcare also conducted weekly COVID-19 tests on workers and residents to prevent the spread within the facility.

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Brian Smith passing out dinner trays to residents in the dining hall on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

“They would ask you a couple questions whenever you came in and started the shift,” said Smith, “like about, “Have you been exposed to it?”” Workers had to fill out papers asking certain questions about their exposure to coronavirus or if they are having any symptoms of COVID-19.

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Sandy Silva doing her weekly COVID-19 test required for all employees by Cypress Healthcare on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)
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New residents who come to Cypress Healthcare must quarantine for two weeks before being able to move into the regular hallways, just as a precaution of contracting coronavirus. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

Many employees were affected due to the virus, but over half stayed far away from COVID-19 positive residents and kept themselves safe during the pandemic. Sandy Silva works at Cypress Healthcare, but she steered clear of coronavirus for the whole year and longer by not opting in to work on the COVID-19 positive hallway. 

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Silva “gowning” up to help a resident who is on COVID-19 precaution on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)
Brian and Sandy share their thoughts about Cypress opening their doors to visitors and recall how many residents got COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic.

Brian and Sandy share their thoughts about Cypress opening their doors to visitors and recall how many residents got COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic.

“There was a few residents that did get COVID, quite a few, that did get it on my hall,” said Silva.

Sandy was heartbroken when some of the residents whom she was close with, passed away. “I remember Mr. Rodriguez always greeting me at the door and smiling, even in his last days with us.” Jesus Rodriguez passed away in August 2020 from COVID-19. 

Some residents themselves have said how much they have had to adjust to the change in regulations since coronavirus entered the building. Many have not seen their family members in person until early this month when Cypress Healthcare reopened their doors to visitations. 

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Cypress Healthcare requires all visitors to schedule an appointment before coming to the facility to see family members in order to keep coronavirus out of the building. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

“I’m just so glad I can finally see my dad and come visit with him,” said Jan Koger, daughter of Roland Williams in the facility, “it feels like we are actually going back to normal again.”

Although Cypress Healthcare has opened their doors to visitations, it leaves some of the workers confused because of the change in protocols. “At some points it does get a little frustrating having families come back and the protocols constantly changing,” said Sandy. 

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Silva doing rounds on her hallway to make sure all her residents are doing okay or if they need help with anything on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

Long-term care facilities have continued to see COVID-19 cases drop with recent access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Though Cypress Healthcare has opened its doors to family members, it has been coronavirus-free for over 8 months. The facility still requires temperature checks, appointments for visitations and masks at all times while in the building. 

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Residents at Cypress Healthcare playing bingo at tables with dividers to keep them at a distance. Residents are also advised to wear masks when going around the facility or visiting with family. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Martinez)

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