PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - An outbreak of COVID-19 in a Pinellas County nursing home has sent 32 residents to the hospital, officials say; 21 residents who were not showing symptoms, but tested positive for the disease, were removed Wednesday night.
According to Craig Hare, Pinellas County’s director of EMS and fire administration, on May 6, the Florida Department of Health and the county's long-term care taskforce were made aware of four residents at Gulf Shore Care Center who tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease. Those residents were removed. Then, on Monday, May 11, seven more patients tested positive and were hospitalized.
A Pinellas County medical examiner report released Tuesday shows a resident from Gulf Shore Care Center died from COVID-19 complications Monday, May 11, as well.
By Wednesday evening, county officials were removing another 21 residents who they said were not showing any signs of illness but still tested positive for COVID-19 -- bringing the total of residents who tested positive at Gulf Shore to 32.
“They did test positive in rapid testing that was done by the facility and DOH and fortunately they are asymptomatic, but to slow the spread of for to other residents we are transferring those patients to hospitals,” Hare told FOX 13 News Wednesday evening.
According to records released by the state, as of Monday, May 11, only five residents and two staff at the Gulf Shore Care Center had tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease. It was unclear why the state database had not been updated as of Wednesday.
Over the weekend, a state agency did issue 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.
Pinellas County fire departments were working with the DOH to visit all 250 long-term care facilities in the county.
"So our first step is, we’re having our area fire departments do a daily assessment and then, periodically, an on-site assessment… as soon as they have their first employee or patient that is positive or symptomatic, they’re getting in touch with DOH and that starts the chain of events of all the agencies working together," Hare said.
According to the FL-DOH, there are more than 900 COVID-19 infections in residents and workers at Tampa Bay area long-term care facilities.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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