person in bed

Assisted living and continuing care retirement communities would be subject to disclosing communicable disease information in their communities if a series of bills introduced by the Texas Legislature in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic pass.

SB 882, introduced by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), chair of the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee, would require assisted living communities, CCRCs and nursing facilities to publicly disclose the number of residents in their communities in whom communicable diseases have been diagnosed. 

SB 930 and HB 3306 are similar bills authored by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), respectively.

State health officials had not released the information publicly until pressed by the media. If passed, the bills would take effect Sept. 1.

Essential caregivers

Kolkhorst also introduced a bill strengthening visitation rights and establishing an essential caregiver program in the state.

The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 25, which would apply to assisted living communities and nursing and intermediate care facilities. 

Visiting a loved one should be a right, not a privilege, Kolkhorst said, adding that “severe and prolonged isolation” during the pandemic is a growing concern, with experts noting that “extreme loneliness could cause more health concerns than the virus itself.”

“If another health emergency occurs, our state’s caregivers will always have a way to safely go inside a facility for scheduled visits and ensure that their loved one’s physical, social and emotional needs are being met,” she said in a statement. 

An accompanying amendment, SJR 19, establishes a resident’s right to designate an essential caregiver and directs the state health department to establish guidelines to ensure resident and staff safety during caregiving visits. 

The Texas House of Representatives now will consider the bills.