Death toll rises as Bay Area long-term care facilities fight uphill COVID-19 battle

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are proving to be hotbeds for the novel coronavirus. A growing percentage of COVID-19 cases and deaths are attributed to long-term care facilities.

As of Thursday night, there were nearly 2,500 residents of Florida’s long-term care facilities confirmed to have COVID-19.

According to the Florida Department of Health, there have been 271 known deaths due to COVID-19 connected to Florida's long-term care facilities. That accounts for nearly 28% of all COVID-19 deaths across the state.                       

“If you look at how this virus has affected the population in Florida, the fatalities are between 80-85% 65 and older, so those long-term care facilities are uniquely vulnerable to this virus spreading,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a press conference.

In Manatee County, nearly two dozen residents have died at two long-term care facilities owned by the same company.

Larry Watkins’ mother was one of those residents – at Braden River Rehabilitation Center in Bradenton.

MORE: Family did not know nursing home was overrun with COVID-19 cases until it was too late

“I received word on April 6, a Monday, that my mom tested positive,” Watkins told FOX 13 News over the phone Thursday.

She passed away from the virus last week and is now part of a grim tally—one of 11 residents at that facility to die from COVID-19; 26 staff members and 37 people who live at the nursing home have also tested positive.

“The problem should have been more disclosed,” Watkins said.

Braden River is owned by Southern Healthcare Management, which also oversees Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center, where 27 residents and 28 employees contracted COVID-19 and 12 people losing their lives.

In Pinellas County, St. Mark Village is fighting the spread of COVID-19. At last check, 13 patients and eight workers have tested positive.

MORE: Two nursing homes account for 23 deaths from COVID-19 in Manatee County

“We caught it early, we tested early, we’ve really been on top of it,” St. Mark Village CEO Doug Fresh told FOX 13. “…13 cases in a small nursing home, it was good to call in help.”

An outbreak of COVID-19 on the Freedom Square Seminole complex claimed the lives of at least five residents. As of Tuesday, 54 patients and 22 employees on the campus had contracted the virus.

Pinellas County currently ranks fifth in the state and with Manatee is in fourth for the most long-term care residents and staff being diagnosed with COVID-19.