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COVID-19 in Florida: Nursing home hot spots in Tampa Bay

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side has pushed to get detailed information about nursing homes with coronavirus outbreaks. Now, we finally know the hot spots in the Tampa Bay area and across Florida.

As the coronavirus pandemic grew, Floridians turned to 8 On Your Side with a question: Why are nursing home cases secret?


WHAT TO KNOW:

  • Florida is reporting 85,926 cases and 3,061 deaths
  • Florida in Phase Two of reopening
  • Cases have spiked in past week, Gov. DeSantis says due to increased testing

Viewers like Holly Turner and Pam Fox said they were kept in the dark as the virus spread.

In the end, both would lose a parent.

“I feel what they did was wrong, wrong for my dad and wrong for my family,” said Turner.

Turner’s father, Richard Elzerman ran a wholesale nursery. Mr. Elzerman had two daughters, four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

He died after contracting COVID-19 at Braden River Rehabilitation Center.

“It is important to me that someone else doesn’t have to face this the way I did,” said Turner.

Pam Fox, whose mother lived at Opis Highlands Lake Center, also died after battling COVID-19 since early April.

“They did not give families the opportunity to make a choice, an educated choice as to whether to leave them there or bring them home,” said Fox.

“Do you feel like you were left in the dark?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“Oh absolutely, absolutely,” said Fox.

On Monday, the state finally released the number of COVID-19 cases at each long-term care facility across Florida.

Now, we are able to report the local nursing homes that are hot spots for the coronavirus.

8 On Your Side analyzed the state data to identify the number of facilities in each county with ten or more positive cases.

Here’s the number of facilities with COVID-19 cases in the double digits:

Hillsborough: 1
Manatee: 3
Pinellas: 5
Polk: 2
Sarasota: 2

In other parts of the state, there are more than 100 cases at one site, including at two facilities up north.

Southern Oaks Care Center in Escambia County is reporting 114 cases to the state. Meanwhile there are 106 cases at Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center in Suwannee County.

Some outbreaks, we knew about including Seminole Pavilion in Pinellas County.

But that’s not the case, with other facilities including:

Sarasota Point Rehab: 28 cases
Casa Mora in Manatee County: 18 cases
Savannah Court of Bartow: 10 cases

8 On Your Side fought to get this data released after public health experts said the information was the key to protection.

“I am thrilled that you kept at the Governor to get that information, I’m thrilled that it is getting out,” said Turner.

Susan Kaar is with Southern Healthcare Management.

Kaar’s agency manages three facilities with outbreaks in the Tampa Bay area, including Braden River Rehabilitation. She sent the following statement to 8 On Your Side:

We are deeply saddened by Mrs. Turner’s loss, and are relieved that she has tested negative for COVID-19. 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. Throughout this crisis, the Department of Health has been the source to provide information regarding cases in the local community. Until the Department revised its practices on April 18 and announced which centers had recorded positive cases, we had not provided information on the number of positive cases within a center.”

8 On Your Side is working to get the number of deaths at each facility.

We will continue to follow this story.

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Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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