He kissed his mother goodbye. Then he learned she had coronavirus.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, The New York Times

Posted at Apr 06 2020 07:22 AM

Samuel Roy Quinn spent five hours with his mother Friday, finally allowed to say goodbye as her condition deteriorated in a nursing home south of Houston. He held her hand and hugged her. He removed his face mask several times to kiss her on the forehead.

When he eventually left the nursing home, The Resort at Texas City, an employee ran after Quinn to tell him — for the first time — that his mother had tested positive for the coronavirus, he said.

It turned out that Quinn’s mother, Peggy Smith, was one of 83 residents and employees at the 135-bed facility who tested positive for the virus, according to local health officials. Some residents are still waiting for results.

Quinn said his 87-year-old mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, died Saturday morning.

“I would have not stayed there that long if I knew she had coronavirus,” Quinn, a fence builder, said from his home in the nearby town of San Leon, where he is now grieving in self-quarantine.

Health officials in Texas are racing to place new restrictions on some nursing homes after 150 residents and employees of two facilities alone fell ill with the coronavirus. In addition to the Texas City facility, the virus also sickened 67 of 84 residents at a San Antonio nursing home, killing one.

Dr. Philip Keiser, the top health official in Galveston County, where Quinn’s mother fell ill, planned to prohibit staff members from working at multiple nursing homes if they work at a facility where a resident has tested positive. The order would also require nursing homes to alert family members if their loved one has been confirmed to have the virus.

Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable hosts for the coronavirus, as evidenced by the horror at a nursing home near Seattle, where 37 people linked to the facility have died.

Quinn said he had asked the nursing staff to take his mother’s temperature Friday while he was there and that she had not had a fever. That made him feel relieved, even though Smith was having trouble breathing, which Quinn knew was a symptom.

Moments after Quinn left the facility, though, a man rushed out and stopped him 10 feet from his truck to tell him that his mother’s coronavirus test had come back positive, Quinn said. The facility's staff had not warned him that his mother may have the virus, Quinn said, adding that it was even more frustrating because the nursing home had not let him or his family visit until it appeared she was near her death.

“We weren’t able to see her in final days, but she gets it anyway,” Quinn said. “And then they let me go in there without telling me.”

A woman who answered the phone at the facility Saturday said the nursing home did not immediately have a comment.

Both the San Antonio and Texas City nursing homes have been cited by state inspectors in the past for health violations. Among the problems found at The Resort at Texas City was a failure, in 2017, to put an infection control program in place for several residents. The facility corrected the violations a month later, according to state records.

Elsewhere in Texas, at least 50 residents and 25 staff members have tested positive for the virus at the Denton State Supported Living Center, a large facility for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, according to Denton County health officials.

Of the 6,112 people in Texas who have tested positive for the virus, at least 109 have died, as of Saturday afternoon.