Local nursing home ends silence, confirms COVID-19 diagnosis

TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) Senior Care of Marlandwood East in Temple which earlier declined to comment after an employee tested positive for the new coronavirus, has issued a press release confirming the diagnosis.

Donnique Fernanders, of Waco, says she started work as a cook earlier this month at Senior Care of Marlandwood East in Temple, but now she’s worried the facility is trying to hide her COVID-19 diagnosis. (Photo by Megan Vanselow)

“On Tuesday, we were informed that a TLC East team member has had a positive test result for COVID-19. At this time, we do not have any other positive tests at TLC East. Although this team member was not providing direct care, we have initiated testing for all team members and residents to be sure the situation is contained,” the press release said.

Donnique Fernanders, of Waco, who started work as a cook earlier this month at the facility, told KWTX earlier in the day Tuesday she was worried the facility was trying to hide her COVID-19 diagnosis.

Fernanders says she worked all last week with no coronavirus symptoms, but fell ill on Saturday.

Worried about her asthma, Fernanders called a family member to take her to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Temple.

She was admitted to the hospital and left Sunday with a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Fernanders says she sent her supervisor a doctor’s note, indicating she can't return to work until May 24, as well as screenshots of her lab-confirmed positive test for COVID-19.

But she was unhappy with the way she was treated by those at the facility.

"[The kitchen manager] just didn't have a care in the world, never said anything about 'how do you feel' or 'you're going to be OK' or 'we got this', nothing," Fernanders said.

She says she received a call from a man who identified himself as the kitchen manager's boss, who was more sympathetic, but still questioned whether her diagnosis was accurate.

Fernanders says she later got a call from a nurse wanting to know if she was around any of the residents when she was at work the week before.

"I wasn't around any of the residents, but I mean I cook, I make their plates, I cook the food to the back, I roll the silverware and I wash their dishes," Fernanders said.

Fernanders says her coworkers told her that no one has been notified that anyone had the virus at all.

She says she started to get worried thinking about some of the other employees who have underlying health conditions, but when she reached out to see if they were OK, nobody even knew that they should be tested.

"I test positive and these people are coming in right after me not knowing, touching the same stove, the same ice box the same bread that I was getting into," Fernanders said.

The Bell County Health District confirmed Tuesday that it was contacted by the McLennan County Health Department that one of its positive cases over the weekend was an employee of a nursing facility in Temple.

Bell County Health District Director, Dr. Amanda Chadwell said the nursing home was notified and is being educated about steps it can take.

"[Bell County Health District] is not a nursing home regulatory authority (with the exception of regulating their kitchen operations) so we cannot mandate anything, but we do always loop in [Health and Human Services Commission] who is their regulatory authority when cases in such facilities arise and make sure they know what recommendations we have made such that mandates may be imposed by them if they deem it necessary," Chadwell said in an email.

“Given the significant extent of the coronavirus…and the particular risk it poses to the elderly and compromised residents of Caraday’s 13 centers in Texas, our leadership team has announced proactive plans to take every precautionary measure to ensure the safety of our residents and staff,” the nursing home said in the press release.

“We also will expand our role as a credible and reliable source of information for our patients, residents, families, employees, local health agencies, and the broader communities in which we operate because they are already reaching out to us with sometimes conflicting information.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Gregg Abbott ordered all nursing homes in the state conduct widespread testing.

"Since local ability to mass test all such facilities is limited it is a good idea for the state to step in to mass test to catch cases," Chadwell said

"However, it is highly recommended that these facilities continue to reduce any chances of COVID-19 entering their facility even if all tests come back negative and not allow negative tests to offer a false sense of security for such a vulnerable population."