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Arlington health department to test residents of retirement community for COVID-19

The decision to test came after another resident tested positive. It also came following a WFAA investigative report highlighted the concerns of two residents.
Credit: WFAA

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Arlington health department has decided to conduct COVID-19 testing on the residents of an retirement community after a fifth resident tested positive.

Residents of Arlington Plaza received a letter Thursday that testing would be done the following day.

The facility was the subject of a WFAA investigative report that aired Wednesday night. The story detailed the concerns of two residents who told WFAA that complex management discouraged residents from being tested, an allegation denied by the company that owns the facility.

RELATED: 2 residents of Arlington retirement community say management discouraged people from getting tested for COVID-19

“I’m really glad that (the testing is) being done,” said Susan Swain, one of the residents who pushed for the initial round of testing. “It should have been done weeks ago.”

The letter given to residents stated that management “informed the health department immediately per our protocol and orders” of the fifth resident testing positive.

“The Arlington City Health Authority has decided that it will perform COVID-19 testing on ALL Arlington Plaza residents (except those who have been tested within the past three days) as well as all employees and care providers,” the letter said.

At Arlington Plaza, residents live in their own apartments. It is an independent living facility with 84 residents. It is owned by Holiday Retirement, a company with similar properties across the nation.

In mid-March, as a precaution, management closed down the communal dining room and began delivering meals to the resident’s rooms. But visitors were still coming and going, and Swain told WFAA she worried the virus might be spreading throughout the complex.

Credit: Susan Swain

Swain's nurse practitioner Connie Lawriw to made separate arrangements for residents to be tested. Swain and Karen McKee, the other resident, went to door to door asking other residents if they wanted to be tested.

Swain and McKee said that when management found out the testing was going to be done at that time, management encouraged residents not to do it because it wasn’t needed.

The company’s communications manager told WFAA in a prior statement that “there was no act of retaliation” and “there was no act of encouragement not to be tested.”

On March 25, Lawriw oversaw the testing of 29 residents – less than half the residents. Out of the 29 residents who took the test, three tested positive. A fourth resident who initially tested negative was taken to a hospital about a week later where she tested positive for COVID-19.

The Tarrant County Health Department also confirmed that one home health care agency employee who was caring for a resident tested positive.

News of the fifth resident testing positive came Thursday.

In the letter given out Thursday, residents were told that testing would start at 11 a.m. Friday.

“All residents are to remain in their apartments,” the letter said. “The health department will come to each resident’s apartment and test you. The test will be free.”

Residents have been quarantined in their rooms for more than a month. The letter also notified residents that the quarantine will not be lifted until May 14th as a result of the fifth resident testing positive. The quarantine could also be extended further if more people tested positive, the letter said.

“We have been asking everyone repeatedly to help us keep the virus out and prevent the virus from coming in,” the letter said. “It is imperative that everyone cooperates – no sneaking out through the stairwells or down the halls for a walk or to run errands. You may be jeopardizing your health, that of your neighbor or our staff.”

Swain and McKee also told WFAA they were both pleasantly surprised when another assisted living facility in Arlington sent them white orchids. The note that accompanied Swain's flowers, said, “Susan, we are sad to hear of your disappointment within your community. Hoping this brightens your day, sending you hugs.”

More from WFAA: 

2 residents of Arlington retirement community say management discouraged people from getting tested for COVID-19

UT Dallas researchers say they're in final stages of creating rapid tests for respiratory viruses like COVID-19

Timeline: Tracking the spread of COVID-19 in Texas

How to get swab or antibody coronavirus test in Dallas-Fort Worth

Families say they were unaware of COVID-19 outbreak inside Burleson nursing home

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