Assisted living communities and other long-term care facilities in Texas now must make public the number of residents in whom a communicable disease has been diagnosed after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law on Monday.

Senate Bill 930, authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and sponsored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) and Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), establishes that certain details about the spread of communicable diseases in assisted living communities, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes is not considered protected health information. 

The information includes facility names and locations as well as the number of residents infected, and it is now subject to disclosure by state and local health agencies under the Texas Public Information Act.  

Texas Health Care Association President and CEO Kevin Warren said the association supports transparency. 

“During the first half of 2020, there were concerns expressed that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission was not releasing facility-level data regarding COVID-19,” Warren told McKnight’s Senior Living. “However, the concerns and issues seem to have been resolved, and facility-specific data has been made available since last year.

“We understand the purpose of this legislation is to avoid these types of circumstances should future pandemics and outbreaks occur.”

After requests from media and consumer groups requesting the information from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas attorney general ruled last fall that information could be made public without violating health privacy laws. 

The act will take effect Sept. 1.