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

Family members in Minnesota are still trying to figure out how the nursing home in Florida where their mother lived became a hot sport for COVID-19 infection without anyone knowing.

The positive diagnosis of COVID-19 didn't shock the family but the high number of cases in two sister facilities did.

First came a phone call and then a letter on March 31. Larry Watkins lives in Minnesota. His mom, Dorothy Carol Davis suffered from Alzheimer’s and was a resident of Braden River Rehabilitation Center in Manatee County for the last two years.

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

Initially, it didn't shock Watkins as he watched nursing homes across the country become flooded with cases. But as far as he knew, only one person had been diagnosed at the center where his mother lived.

Three days later after his mom tested positive, she was transferred to Manatee Memorial Hospital where she'd take her last breath on April 14.

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

“I did notify her primary nurse. You could feel the emotional pain that she had,” Watkins said.

He didn’t know his mom would become part of a grim tally. She makes up 1 of 11 from Braden River Rehabilitation Center who have died from COVID-19.

“I certainly was looking for that information, I was actively searching for the information,” Watkins said. “The problem should have been more disclosed.”

The Florida Department of Health did know what was happening behind closed doors as they informed county commissioners on Tuesday.

“The company took it upon themselves to test all of the staff and clients when they started seeing the uptick,” A DoH Manatee County representative said.

Braden River is managed by Southern Healthcare Management. They also oversee Riviera Palms Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Palmetto, where they've reported 12 deaths from the virus.

“When you have one nurse that’s responsible for 30 patients and half a dozen aides… They’re doing their best, but it’s not stacked up for positive outcomes,” Watkins pointed out.

He believes if the facilities had been more transparent with families, the outcome may have been different.

“If I’d known the only thing that could have happened, I could have been an advocate with the State of Florida to get them more help,” Watkins said.

The county says the National Guard will continue monitoring and administrating other tests at sites like Braden River Rehab.

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


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