Florida’s list of long-term care coronavirus cases doesn’t solve the problem

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – The numbers are staggering and heartbreaking for the families. And they show how long-term care facilities are at the heart of the coronavirus crisis.

Only 1% of Florida residents live in these facilities, but they make up 7% of the state’s known positive cases of COVID-19 and 24% of the fatal cases.

The toughest question they face: How do you control the spread of the virus when caretakers of the most vulnerable people go in and out, possibly asymptomatic, yet possibly still carrying COVID-19 through the doors?

“We need the National Guard,” Laynie Stern, owner and CEO of Hampton Court Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Northwest Miami-Dade, said in a plea to Local 10 News. “We need them to come and test our patients and staff, so that we can mitigate the spread.”

The National Guard says it will test every long-term care staff member in the state, but it will take time.

Those staff members are key, considering other visitation has long been suspended and the residents aren’t leaving the facilities.

“The patients aren’t getting out, so if they’re bringing COVID into the facility, it has to be through the staff,” said Adj. General James Eifert of the Florida National Guard.

Florida this weekend released a list of more than 300 long-term care facilities in the state that have had COVID-19 cases, and the list doesn’t include Hampton Court, which has its first presumed positive and is now waiting for a retest for confirmation.

That notice has also come too late for many families.

“My mom could have had it for weeks and we don’t know,” said Jorge Zamanillo, whose mother Rosa died earlier this month. “Not knowing, and the secrecy is what really worries us.”

She was in Miami’s Residential Plaza for Elderly At Blue Lagoon, which is among those now listed now on the state’s list.

Though she hadn’t been out of her home in months, Rosa went from asymptomatic to positive and then died from the virus in less than a week.

“Everybody starting ramping up their security measures and their health gear and making sure they’re following the right protocols, but it was probably too late,” Zamanillo said.

Even with increased testing of staff members, the challenge remains that they could test negative one day and, as is the nature of COVID-19, be positive the next.

THE LIST: Long-term care facilities in Florida that have confirmed COVID-19 cases

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