More than a third of all local COVID-19-related deaths are connected to The Resort at Texas City, a long-term care facility where the single largest identified outbreak of the virus in Galveston County occurred.
Of at least 56 residents infected with the virus, 11 died, spokeswoman Cara Gustafson said.
Three of the people who died were among a group treated with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, said Dr. Robin Armstrong, the medical director for the facility.
The 11 deaths connected to the facility were first reported by the Houston Chronicle.
The information about the deaths added more context to the death toll wrought by COVID-19 in Galveston County. The health district has reported that 27 of the county’s 30 COVID-19-related deaths were connected to long-term care facilities but so far has declined to say in which facilities, or even which cities, the deaths have occurred.
Nationwide, long-term care facilities for older adults have been the source of 153,000 COVID-19 infections. Those infections contributed to the deaths of at least 28,100 people as of Monday, according to The New York Times. Nursing home-related deaths accounted for 35 percent of all the COVID-19-related deaths in the United States as of Monday, according to the Times.
Of the people who died at The Resort in Texas City, five were in hospice care, Gustafson said. Four people died at the facility, and one died in a hospital, she said.
Another four residents died at local hospitals after being moved from the facility. Two people, who were not in hospice care, died at the facility, Gustafson said.
The Resort at Texas City has been the focus of nationwide attention since the health district on April 3 announced more than 60 people, including staff members and residents, were diagnosed with COVID-19. That number later was increased to 83 after more people connected to the facility were tested following the identification of the outbreak.
The number of deaths reported at the facility was not necessarily indicative of the care patients at the facility received after the outbreak was announced, Armstrong said.
“There were hospice patients that had been on hospice for months prior,” Armstrong said. “And there were also some that went out before we took over the facility,” referring to safety steps taken after the announcement of the outbreak.
One of the people who died had tested negative for COVID-19 at The Resort but later went to the hospital and tested positive before dying, Armstrong said.
“Almost half of those deaths were hospice patients who had underlying medical conditions,” Armstrong said. “We weren’t taking care of all the patients at the facility; some of them were under the care of other physicians.”
Armstrong gained national attention by announcing he was treating 38 people at the facility with hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug once touted by some, including President Donald Trump, as an effective treatment for coronavirus.
Armstrong’s decision to treat some residents with the drug was controversial because some experts had questioned the safety of doing so.
Weeks after Armstrong administered the treatment to his residents, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an official warning against medical providers using the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.
Armstrong is also a prominent Republican figure in Texas. He’s one of the state’s two members to the Republican National Committee and was able to get samples of hydroxychloroquine by contacting other prominent Republicans in the state, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, according to The Associated Press.
Armstrong said his decision to treat patients with hydroxychloroquine was in no way connected to his politics. On April 10, Armstrong wrote an op-ed for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram praising Trump’s response to the pandemic and said he was encouraged by the government’s support of using off-label drugs.
After the reports of the deaths Thursday, he said he stands by his use of the drug.
“I don’t think criticism would be valid,” Armstrong said. “I think it actually helps bolster the argument that medication was effective in preventing others from dying. Out of the cohort we treated, the results were favorable.”