Florida coronavirus: Tampa Bay counties report 0 COVID-19 cases at nursing homes

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side is investigating after some Tampa Bay area counties say they have no coronavirus cases in any of their nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

We fought for the release of this information so that you make an informed decision for your loved ones. Now, we’re digging deeper to see what is not shown in this data.


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

8 On Your Side Investigates has been poring through state data that names long-term care facilities with coronavirus.

There are ten counties in our viewing area.

While half are reporting outbreaks, the remaining five counties say, they have virtually no cases at all inside their nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“There’s still not enough being done to identify outbreaks happening in these facilities,” said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care.

Lee’s non-profit advocates for nursing home residents in Florida and beyond.

8 On Your Side showed Lee this data.

Three Tampa Bay area counties , Citrus, Hardee and Hernando, say they have no facilities with someone testing positive for COVID-19.

Meantime, Highlands County is reporting coronavirus at just one facility.

It’s the same situation in Pasco, a county with a population of more than half a million people.

Lee and other nursing home advocates fear under reporting and a lack of testing is keeping these numbers low.

8 On Your Side wanted to know what could be done right now to test our seniors.

“There’s a pot of gold, essentially a slush fund, that nursing homes have been using for years for special projects,” said Lee.

The state’s name for this pot of gold is Nursing Home Civil Money Penalty Reinvestment Projects.

Essentially, it’s funds collected from fines.

Lee says currently there’s more than $13 million in this fund.

His non-profit is calling for the money to be used to purchase rapid testing machines for each of Florida’s nursing homes.

“If these testing machines were deployed, we could start to identify which residents are infected, which staff are infected, and it could be happening on an ongoing basis,” said Lee.

As of Monday, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management tells 8 On Your Side, the National Guard had only conducted testing at to two nursing homes in the Tampa Bay area.

8 On Your Side is continuing to look for a testing solution.

We’ve reached out to the state to learn more about the Nursing Home Civil Money Penalty Reinvestment Projects.

If there’s a lack of testing at your nursing home, email MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

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