Coronavirus cases on the rise in Polk nursing homes

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19. The number of cases in Polk County's facilities has almost doubled in the last few weeks, from eight to 19.

One-third of them have been identified in Highlands Lake Center in Lakeland, where Mary Ann DeLoache’s 103-year-old mom lives.

“My worry is, dear Lord, please don’t let this be the way my momma leaves the earth, through this horrible virus,” she told FOX 13.

“I go to bed worrying about it, praying about it,” she said in a Zoom interview. I haven’t had a straight solid night’s sleep since this happened.”

Her concerns are not unfounded. The elderly, especially those with underlying conditions, are extremely vulnerable to the virus. Statewide, at least 5,125 elderly people have been infected. Of them, at least 430 have died.

RELATED: State steps up tests in nursing homes as cases mount

“We have a nursing home up in Live Oak that is a disaster,” said Ed Chambers, president of the union that represents thousands of nurses statewide, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1625. “It has 60-plus positives; half of them staff, half of them residents.”

Chambers says it is now standard operating procedure for nursing homes and other long-term living facilities to screen staff and residents and take their temperature every day.

Last month, facilities stopped allowing visitors.

RELATED: National Guard members spot check for virus at Florida nursing homes

A spokeswoman for Highlands Lake Center says, like other similar operations, they are following all CDC guidelines like wearing gowns, masks and shields when appropriate.

Despite all that, the number of cases continues to rise.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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