The public will gain access to information on COVID-19 and other communicable disease outbreaks in Texas nursing homes and assisted living centers under a bipartisan transparency bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law May 24.
Senate Bill 930 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini and co-author Sen. Lois Kolkhorst came about after nursing home residents and their loved ones were unable to obtain information on coronavirus clusters in the living facilities when they began to emerge in spring 2020. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission eventually posted the outbreak information online after arguing unsuccessfully to the attorney general that the data should be kept secret. Even after that, some local health authorities continued to refuse to release the information to the public. SB 930 closes the local loophole as well.
Requestors, including the nonprofit Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, were not asking for individual health information – only the names and locations of nursing homes and assisted living centers that were experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
Reps. Mayes Middleton and Toni Rose were the House sponsors of the bill. The measure takes effect Sept. 1.