Coronavirus in Florida: Lack of available tests a major issue at long term care facilities

Amount of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise at long term care facilities in Florida

The lack of access to coronavirus testing may be leading to fatalities for some of South Florida's most vulnerable residents.

TAMARAC, Fla. – The lack of access to coronavirus testing may be leading to fatalities for some of South Florida's most vulnerable residents.

Currently in the State of Florida there are 283 positive cases of COVID-19 at long term care facilities, a number that has gone up 102 cases since Friday.

Local 10 News has learned a resident in her 80s at Harbor Chase Memory Care in Tamarac, who had Alzheimer's and developed respiratory issues last week, died Monday morning, with no family members at her side.

She never developed a fever, so she was never tested for coronavirus and therefore, it will not be known if the virus contributed to her passing.

"Many folks are dying in these facilities everyday," said Matt Dietz, an attorney with the Disability Independence Group. "These are the most vulnerable people in our society and they're not getting the same amount of care and testing that others have gotten."

Dietz feels what is going on inside these facilities could be illegal.

"It is a violation of the ADA when a person in a nursing home says I need the services that are being provided to everyone else but I cannot get to the drive thru testing, it should come to me," he said.

In Miami-Dade and Broward there are 41 cases of COVID-19 at long term care facilities in each county while in Palm Beach County there are 32 positive cases.

The City of Miami and Key Biscayne both offer mobile testing.

"I have notified Miami-Dade and I am urging them to implement a program, and I have not herd back," said Dietz.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talked about using new rapid testing in long term care facilities.

"You can spot check some of the staff members to control any outbreaks in some of those sensitive environments," he said.

Besides the fact that there just aren't enough tests, there is also the problem of false negatives. Someone could test negative one day and contract the virus the next day, and it's a problem the Department of Health is concerned with.

For now, residents are being isolated on a case-by-case basis and employees are being screened when they come in to work every day.

“It’s really the time now to ensure that these folks don’t die,” Dietz said. “These folks are the last on the list and should be first on this list to prevent the bigger crisis from happening.”

About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.