More than four dozen long term care facilities in the greater Tampa Bay region have patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
Over the weekend, the state of Florida released the names and counties with nursing homes and assisted-living facilities who had patients or employees test positive for Covid-19. The more than 300 locations include 53 facilities in Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota, Hillsborough and Manatee Counties.
One of the hardest hit facilities is Freedom Square of Seminole, where 39 patients and residents and 19 employees have tested positive. At least three patients have died.
Executive Director Michael Mason said in a statement that all 95 residents from its rehabilitation center were transferred to area hospitals and facilities over the weekend. The entire campus is undergoing 'enhanced cleaning.'
Mason said all of the patients and residents who tested positive have been taken to hospitals or other facilities. Three of five people transported to the hospital on Saturday tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Sunday, 124 different residents and patients at Freedom Square have been tested. Another 136 employees have been tested and 19 tested positive. More than 100 test results are pending.
While it’s not clear how many people live on the 15-acre campus, its services include skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities, as well as independent living and memory care residences. Mason said he expects more residents, patients and employees to be tested in the coming days and weeks.
CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida
“The highly contagious nature of COVID-19 has proven to be an incredible challenge for healthcare facilities across the country, and we are pleased the Florida State Department of Health in Pinellas County has agreed to formally work with us to develop more aggressive mitigation strategies,” he said in a statement.
On Sunday, WUSF News contacted Freedom Square and 10 other facilities in Pinellas County, which accounts for nearly half of the regional locations listed in the state report. Most declined immediate comment about the specific number of cases or precautions being taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Some said no one was available to speak to a reporter.
Consulate Health Care is the corporate owner of four facilities on the local list of positive cases, including one in Polk County, one in Sarasota County and two in Pinellas. Jennifer L. Trapp, vice president of corporate communications, said in an email that the company is committed to the safety and protection of staff and residents. She said they would not comment publicly about COVID-19 cases, citing privacy protections.
“We are diligently following all CDC and CMS guidelines, working in close partnership with our local and state healthcare agencies, and taking every measure to safeguard our centers against the threat of COVID-19. Our dedicated caregivers are working night and day, often leaving their own families to care for our family of residents, and we thank them for their service and heroic efforts,” she said.
Consulate Health Care's facility in St. Petersburg included a recorded message for callers that said visitors are restricted to those coming to see family members at the end of their lives. Those people are subject to mandatory screening.
Trapp said that its facilities are working to communicate regularly with families about resident health.
“We will continue to communicate timely with the proper healthcare agencies, families, staff and residents as necessary and appropriate,” she said in the email statement. “If families have concerns about their loved one, we encourage them to contact the care center directly.”
According to state officials, of the 748 recorded deaths from coronavirus as of Saturday, at least 169 were related to infections at long term care facilities in Florida. The state has been requiring facilities to notify health officials if a resident or employee tested positive, but Gov. Ron DeSantis waited until Saturday to release of the names of the facilities.
(Editor's note: The list below has been modified to remove a facility inproperly listed in a previous report from the state.)
Nursing homes in the Tampa Bay area with cases include: