Strike teams testing Manatee County long-term care facilities patients, staff for COVID-19

Strike teams from the state are focused on testing patients and staff of long-term care facilities. 

"They're here to help,” explained Jacob Saur, Manatee County public safety director. “We do know through all of this COVID-19 pandemic, our long-term care facilities have really been hit hard some areas with positive cases.” 

Saur said the teams are focusing on four facilities. 

"Those teams are coming in to assist the staff that’s already there,” Saur said. “The local Florida Department of Health teams in better understanding what is occurring in those facilities, where our positives are and what we can do to assist the staff in the facilities to get them under control.”

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

State officials have already been at one of the hardest-hit locations for weeks. 

Braden River Rehabilitation Center had 27 staff members test positive for COVID-19. 

That's where Patti Varrato's mom, 80-year-old Patricia Schafer was being taken care of for dementia. 

"On March 30, I got a call on my cell phone and they told me they had moved her because her roommate had a high fever, they wanted to keep her away for her safety," Varrato said. 

Two days later, Varrato got a final call. 

"She was declining, she wasn’t responding, comatose and her kidneys were shutting down,” Varrato explained. “Two hours later they called to say she was gone."

RELATED: Traveling employees may have spread COVID-19 at two Manatee County long-term care facilities

Varrato was told it was pneumonia. She never got to say goodbye in person because COVID-19 restrictions kept her out. 

After her mother’s death, Varrato received a letter from the facility saying someone had tested positive for COVID-19.

Then she got a phone call. "That's when I found out that she didn’t die of pneumonia like their in-house doctor had signed off on. She had COVID-19," said Varrato. 

Varrato only found out from the medical examiner, who listed her mom's cause of death as "complications of coronavirus."

RELATED: Outlook for COVID-19 in Florida's long-term care facilities worsens as new data emerges

What exactly happened inside is unknown. "When the governor said no visitors, we thought because he put that in the order that she would be safe from that, but it turns out she wasn’t," she said. 

Braden River Rehabilitation Center's sister facility, Riviera Palms had 39 staff members test positive. 

Southern Healthcare Management LLC, operates Braden River Rehabilitation and Riviera Palms and released a statement.

"Privacy considerations prevent us from discussing the care provided to any particular resident. We are deeply saddened for the loss of these residents. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have followed CDC and other federal, state, and local protocols to protect our residents and staff to the greatest extent possible. Our procedures have included notifying our residents upon the first positive test of anyone in our center, and also informing each resident’s principal contact. We will continue to do so as we work to keep our residents and staff well."

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