South Florida nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are reporting more than 500 residents have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to new state data released Monday.
The updated state report shows several long-term care facilities across Florida are reporting dozens of cases of the virus.
The information released Monday doesn’t give a complete picture of how the disease is affecting senior-care homes. It doesn’t break down which facilities have recorded deaths. It also doesn’t detail how much testing each facility has done, which could lead to a larger number of positive cases.
In South Florida, North Dade Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has the highest count of residents who have tested positive for the virus and the second highest in the state. Forty-five residents at the 245-bed nursing home tested positive. Another eight residents who tested positive were transferred out of the facility. Three workers also tested positive.
A message left with the administrator was not returned on Monday.
Manor Pines Convalescent Center, which is licensed for 206 beds, is reporting the largest number of cases in Broward County. Thirty-nine residents have tested positive, and 11 residents who tested positive have been transferred out of the facility. The state report also includes 26 workers who have tested positive.
Ralph A. Marrinson, president of Marrinson Group, said Manor Pines has more cases than other nursing homes because every staff member and resident was tested. Marrinson said the vast majority of people who tested positive never showed any symptoms, and he suspects his count is higher because more testing has been done.
“We are on top of it,” said Marrinson, whose company operates five senior-care homes in Florida. “It was the prudent thing to do, and I have no regrets having done it.”
Two nursing home residents with underlying health issues who tested positive for the virus at the hospital have died, Marrinson said.
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Julie Beckert, a spokeswoman for Heartland Health Care Center in Boca Raton, said testing influences which nursing homes report the most cases to the state. Her nursing home is reporting a dozen residents have tested positive and another five have been transferred out of the facility, giving it the second highest total in Palm Beach County.
“The only reason Heartland Health Care Center in Boca Raton has higher numbers is that it was one of the centers selected randomly by the state to test the whole house,” she said in an email.
More extensive testing helps prevent outbreaks because it allows infected patients and staff to be isolated sooner, Beckert said.
Southern Oaks Care Center in Pensacola has reported the largest number of positive residents in the state. Eighty-seven residents have tested positive at the 210-bed facility, and another five residents who tested positive have been transferred out of the facility. The administrator could not be reached for comment Monday because the line was busy.
The report is based off information uploaded by senior home staff members into the Florida Agency for Health Administration’s Emergency Status System. The report reflects a snapshot of what facilities are reporting, and the data is not cumulative.
The tally does not include residents who had the disease but are no longer positive, said Katie Strickland, a spokeswoman for the Agency for Health Care Administration.
As of Monday, 319 people connected to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died, accounting for nearly 30% of the state’s 1,088 coronavirus deaths, according to state statistics.
Florida has been releasing more information about senior-care homes amid pressure from advocates for the elderly and legal threats from media outlets. Initially, the state declined to identify senior homes with cases of the virus, citing medical privacy concerns. Then it released the names of homes but withheld information about number of cases at those facilities.
Nine news organizations, including the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and the First Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit Monday seeking more information, including a breakdown of staff and resident deaths by facility. Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health, and the Agency for Health Care Administration are the defendants in the lawsuits.
“The state needs to tell the public how many COVID deaths have occurred among residents and staff of senior homes,” Julie Anderson, editor and chief of the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel, said in a prepared statement. ” After working behind the scenes to get that information, we could wait no longer. Time is of the essence.”
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AARP Florida Director Jeff Johnson said families deserve to know more about what is happening inside the state’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
“This virus is a deadly threat to frail older Floridians,” he said. “And it’s vital for families to have the best information available, both for their own peace of mind and to guide their decisions regarding the care of their loved ones.”
Staff writers Aric Chokey and Rafael Olmeda contributed to this report.