As vaccinations continue to roll out across the country, Covid-19 continues to infect new patients every week, and so far more than 486,000 Americans have died of the infection. Nearly 26,000 of those were Florida residents, and more than 107,000 were nursing home residents nationwide. Sadly, the infection spread easily in many unprepared nursing homes, claiming the lives of residents who were at high risk due to age, illness, or disability.
Unfortunately, travel and visiting around the holidays likely increased these numbers. In the three-week period around Thanksgiving, 4.7 out of every 1,000 nursing home residents died in the state, an increase from 2.3 out of 1,000 in the four weeks before Nov. 15. By December 23, 7,900 residents and staff at elder-care facilities had died of COVID-19 in Florida.
Why is Covid-19 so prevalent in Florida nursing homes?
Because testing is optional under state laws, many senior care facilities don’t require it for visitors. This can leave residents at risk. There are many other situations that may contribute to the spread of Covid-19 in these facilities, such as a lack of PPE and other safety measures for staff and patients, a lack of test kits, or a failure to monitor and isolate patients showing symptoms. Bringing together patients for meals and activities may also increase risk, but some facilities lack the staff or resources to decentralize these practices.
“The fundamental problem is the continued inability to provide accurate, rapid-result testing of everyone entering elder-care facilities — staff, visitors, family caregivers and vendors,’’ said David Bruns, spokesman for AARP, when he spoke with the Tampa Bay Times in late December.
Staying informed on the health condition of your loved one
Although it’s difficult not to visit a family member you haven’t seen in a while, visits are still risky and will continue to be for the next several months, until more of the population is vaccinated. If possible, try to talk with your family by phone instead of making in-person visits. If you do go in-person, be sure to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and maintain a 6ft distance from everyone you encounter in the facility.
You can also call the facility and ask if your loved one’s vaccine has been scheduled, as the state has made elderly people over 70 a priority group for vaccination. If your family member has not been vaccinated and there are no plans to do so soon, ask the facility staff why and when they can expect to receive a vaccine.
Unfortunately, the vaccine has come too late for many seniors who have already died or become chronically ill from Covid-19. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a duty to protect their residents from harm, including infectious disease. If you believe your loved one may have suffered from nursing home negligence in relation to the pandemic, please contact us for a free consultation.
Is your loved one in a facility affected by a Covid-19 outbreak? Follow our list here
The Florida Department of Health maintains a frequently-updated list with stats for positive test results among patients and staff at nursing home facilities. If you have a loved one in such a facility, you may want to keep an eye on this list for a jump in cases. It’s also a good idea to talk on the phone or video chat with loved ones often to keep up with how things are going at the facility. Make note if your loved one mentions that nurses and staff have been scarce lately, or several of their friends have been taken to the infirmary.
Covid-19 Data and Florida Nursing Homes – As of February 16th, 2021
- 24 facilities in Palm Beach County have had at least one case of Covid-19 among it’s patients
- The worst outbreak was at Encore at Boca Raton, a nursing home, with 29 positive residents.
- The second worst outbreak was at Avante at Boca Raton with 17 cases and 31 residents transferred. We have written extensively on the poor conditions for residents at Avante, based solely on violation data provided by the state.
- The highest instance of Covid-19 infected occurred at Life Care Center of Port St. Lucie with 48 staff testing positive on 2/14/2021.
- Menorah House has the highest number of positive residents transferred.
Data provided by the State of Florida.