Eight residents at a state-run living facility for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have tested positive for COVID-19 in less than a week as health officials work to do more widespread testing there.
Denton County officials said a growing number of cases of the novel coronavirus at the Denton State Supported Living Center could overwhelm local hospitals.
They have asked Gov. Greg Abbott for additional testing supplies.
Until Wednesday, all testing had been conducted after a resident had been hospitalized. Health officials said 140 high-risk residents at the facility were tested Wednesday.
The center, located on State School Road in Denton, has 446 residents and 1,727 staff on 189 acres.
Angela Biggs said she worries for her 29-year-old daughter who has lived at the facility for six years.
“The risk is high for all of them now because of the way they’re situated and due to their disabilities,” Biggs said.
Biggs spoke about her daughter over a video chat Thursday from Mineral Wells.
Amber Reynolds has "a brain injury from birth and she has bipolar [disorder] and mild cerebral palsy and seizure activity," Biggs said.
The mother said she is grateful for the Denton State living facility but worries about what happens if COVID-19 continues to spread.
“What if a big portion of the staff gets sick?” Biggs wonders. ”What if they get fearful? I mean anything can happen. We have to think ahead. Some of them might have to leave and go care for their families.”
Denton County Judge Andy Eads said Thursday that the fast-spreading disease needs to be stopped across the county and urged residents to stay home.
He announced the first Denton County death due to the new coronavirus during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"Stay home. Be responsible. Wash your hands, but most of all realize that your carelessness or cavalier attitude can and will unknowingly result in someone else's death," Eads said.
He and other public officials said they're concerned the spread of the disease at the Denton State living facility could tax already strained hospital resources.
"To put it quite frankly, a surge in cases will collapse our medical infrastructure," Eads said.
Denton County Public Health Director Dr. Matt Richardson said high-risk residents at the living facility are being tested first for COVID-19. Then health officials will test at-risk staff members.
The facility is checking the temperatures of the residents and staff. If staff members have a fever, they're sent home. Residents with fevers are isolated.
Visitors aren't allowed to enter the facility, leaving Biggs wondering when she can see her daughter again.
She said Reynolds doesn’t respond well to tests or labs unless Biggs is there with her. The mother said she just wants more information about what's happening at the facility.
“We’re being patient and persistent,” she said. “We’ve put our sacred trust in this place and we’re thankful for them, but the communication needs to get better.”
Biggs worries her daughter may get sick. But without access to Amber, all she can do is pray, and pray hard, that her daughter is being protected.