ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As COVID-19 cases continue to vex Bay Area nursing homes, Pinellas County officials are closely monitoring two facilities where more than a dozen residents required emergency transport on Monday.
First responders moved 15 patients from St. Petersburg Nursing and Rehabilitation and from Gulf Shore Rehabilitation in Pinellas Park.
A Pinellas County medical examiner report released Tuesday indicates a resident from Gulf Shore Care Center away from COVID-19 complications the same day patients were removed from the homes.
According to the report, the woman was transferred to Northside Hospital May 1. Her condition deteriorated and she later tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the situations at Gulf Shore Care Center and St. Petersburg Nursing and Rehabilitation are becoming clearer. According to the county, 10 residents and two workers at the St. Petersburg facility tested positive for COVID-19. An additional five residents at Gulf Shore Care Center tested positive.
They were all evacuated from the facilities Monday.
"There were enough residents within a facility that, in both facilities, they decided to transport them to hospitals to not only care for the residents, but also it allows the facility to just look at their own infection control practices and make sure that the rest of the facility is under control and that there's not a continuing spread," said Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.
Burton said this also shows the importance of Pinellas County’s long-term care task force, which was established after about two dozen residents and workers at Seminole Pavilion Rehab and Nursing Services passed away due to coronavirus-related issues.
That number is now up to at least 30.
While the state does provide data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in its nursing homes and care facilities, the numbers are often only updated once a week. Last week's report, however, does shed some insight into just how quickly a coronavirus outbreak can spread through a nursing home.
According to last week's report, Gulf Shore Rehab had reported a total of four COVID-19 patients had been transferred from the facility to date. St. Pete Nursing and Rehab had reported no transferred patients and only five total cases. Three days later, 15 patients from the two facilities needed emergency removal.
Pinellas County has the state's fourth-highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in long-term care facilities. Excluding South Florida facilities, Pinellas is second only to Manatee County in long-term facility deaths -- a number that has grown substantially in recent weeks. According to the latest Florida Department of Health report, Pinellas County has had 43 deaths in those facilities. Manatee has seen 46.
Pinellas County’s long-term care task force was been established to avoid another incident like at the Seminole facility, so this was a move made to prevent another widespread outbreak. They're having fire officials inspect each nursing home and then, based on cases and what the department finds in terms of safety practices, they make the decision to transport. That's what happened Monday.
"It's what we've trained for, it's what we're equipped for, it's what we're prepared for," said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Chief Ian Womack. "We are somewhat accustomed to interfacing with infectious diseases that don't have known cures... The challenge for us is because of the persistent nature of this event is maintaining the diligence in following the guidance for protecting ourselves."
The task force is to advise on best practices and provide PPE that's needed.
Elsewhere in the Bay Area, some facilities have been required by DOH to transfer all residents after rampant outbreaks inside their facilities.
In Hillsborough, 79 residents from Bristol at Tampa Nursing Rehab and Nursing were transported after testing positive last week. Testing also revealed 38 staff members were infected as well. The Community Convalescent Center also had to transport 66 patients. Seventeen of its staff members also tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement to FOX 13, a spokesperson for Gulf Shore Care Center said, in part:
"The new COVID virus does not discriminate and has ravaged communal living environments throughout much of the United States. In an attempt to help protect our wonderful residents, we have sent those few, who are suspected of having the new COVID virus, to the hospital for testing and treatment. We currently have no identified COVID positive residents in-house... We want our families and our residents to know that we are working hard to do our best with the limited knowledge that currently exists.”
St. Petersburg Nursing and Rehabilitation declined to comment on the situation.
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