Hillsborough County announces COVID-19 support team for long-term care facilities

Long-term care facilities across the country are fighting what seems like a losing battle against the spread of COVID-19, but community leaders are starting to step up and help workers take on the fight.

In Hillsborough County, emergency officials, first responders, hospitals, and state public health officials have begun coordinating efforts with nursing homes and assisted living facilities to get ahead of the virus.

Officials with the Hillsborough County Florida Department of Health told members of the Emergency Policy Group Thursday that approximately 20% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 30% of COVID-19 related deaths in Hillsborough County were residents or otherwise connected to long-term care facilities.

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The majority of the 46 fatalities reported so far were of people older than 65. 

A long-term care facility rapid response team, similar to one formed in Pinellas County, is now working with facilities on infection control practices, widespread and rapid COVID-19 testing of residents and staff, and transport to area hospitals. 

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Over the weekend, a state agency issued two emergency rules in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. 

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is now requiring nursing homes to grant access to the Florida Department of Health for infection prevention and control, which will include mandated virus testing for every single employee at each facility. Any centers not following the new state testing rules could face fines or have their licenses pulled.

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 covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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