Task force aims to test all residents, staff of Hillsborough long-term care facilities

Days after being launched, the long-term care task force in Hillsborough County is taking aggressive steps, with the goal of testing residents and staff at every facility to stop COVID-19 outbreaks before they start.

There are nearly 280 nursing facilities in Hillsborough County. As of Tuesday, 27 of them reported having confirmed COVID-19 cases to the state.

“These facilities have been on lockdown for visitors since early March,” said Hillsborough County Deputy Fire Marshall, Chief Ray Hansen said. “These patients are now just recently becoming COVID positive.”

Experts believe asymptomatic workers at the centers could be spreading the virus undetected.  So the County is being proactive instead of reactionary.

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Hillsborough County's newly formed Long-Term Care Facility Rapid Response Task Force is sending teams to collect samples from every resident and staff member. 

The group is working directly with units from the National Guard to make sure teams visit all of the county’s nursing homes, even those not reporting any infections.

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“So what they’re not scheduling, are the facilities at the top of the list that we're gonna take care of,” Hansen said.

If a test comes back positive, residents will be transported out of the nursing home. They will either hospitalized or moved to a dedicated facility where they can recover. Officials say the isolation site can accommodate up to 120 patients.

“To receive the same level of care that they would be receiving in their original facility but yet they’re not infecting the general population,” said Hansen.

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The testing started Tuesday morning, and getting the results takes about four days.

Right now, it’s unclear if there will be ongoing testing at every County long-term care facility.

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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