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3 Dead, Dozens Hospitalized After COVID-19 Spreads Through Seminole Nursing Home

Apr 18, 2020

Three people who were evacuated from a nursing home in Seminole have died from COVID-19, according to the medical examiner's office in Pinellas County. The patients, an 84-year-old woman, 74-year-old man and 66-year-old man were among dozens of people who were evacuated after the virus spread through the nursing home.

The remainder of Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation's 39 residents were being evacuated on Friday and the nursing home was being shut down, according to the Tampa Bay Times

Twenty-one residents and six employees at the nursing home tested positive for the disease, the Times reported. 

The patients, along with others who were considered at risk, were transferred to 3 area hospitals at the request of the nursing home, Assistant County Administrator Lourdes Benedict said in an email.

Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation is part of Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community that offers varying levels of care from assisted living to memory care and skilled nursing.

Pinellas County had as many as 60 confirmed cases in various nursing homes as of Thursday morning, Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, told Pinellas County commissioners on Thursday.

“We do monitor and test when other residents are symptomatic,” Choe said. “Our communication with them is on a constant basis, and if the need arises, and (the nursing home) needs more resources or additional assistance, we do help facilitate that and do serve as a subject-matter expert and consultation on some infection control practices.”

Nursing homes statewide are experiencing a surge in cases.

Of the nearly 700 Florida nursing homes and more than 3,000 assisted living facilities, 1,454 nursing home residents or staff have been confirmed with the coronavirus as of Thursday — a 122-case jump from the day before, according to Kristen Knapp, director of communications for the Florida Health Care Association. Her group represents about 82 percent of nursing homes in Florida. 

The state reported Thursday morning that 126 of Florida's 686 deaths were related to infections at nursing homes. 

Despite the high number of cases, and high risk for residents, Knapp said nursing homes were not given priority to receive personal protective equipment. Only 40 percent of the homes’ members have two weeks’ worth of supplies, she said.

“I would not say we’re first in line,” Knapp said. “But yes, we should be a priority. We are caregivers that are on the frontline of trying to protect our most vulnerable citizens, and we need priority to supplies.”

Private vendors have also offered supplies to the homes, but each delivery takes around two to three weeks, Knapp said.

The state stopped allowing families visit their relatives in nursing homes on March 14.

“Facilities are having to be creative,” Knapp said. “Family members are not allowed in the building, and of course we recognize they’re anxious. They want to know how their loved ones are doing. So, they’re using tablets, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime … I’ve seen a lot of what you would call ‘drive-by visits.’”

As of Friday morning, Florida had 24,119 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.  

Though the government has seen a flattening of the curve across the country, nursing homes in Florida are still seeing increases in case counts and, because of that, must remain cautious, Knapp said.

“Our staff, they do go home every night,” Knapp said. “They’re actively screened, but the nature of this virus is that it doesn’t necessarily show signs or symptoms initially, and so that’s why we still need to go through an active screening process every single day. They’re wearing masks every single day in the building. Our focus is on the safety and care of our residents.”

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