Coronavirus cases in Central Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have continued to rise as the state starts to reopen. There are concerns that asymptomatic staff members, including hospice and home health clinicians, will be spreading the virus from one facility to another. According to records and as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, cases at three of Central Florida’s hardest-hit nursing homes: The Terrace of St. Cloud, the Consulate Health Care at West Altamonte, and Coquina Center in Volusia County accounted for 115 of the 182 cases in the region. Among them, 22 staff members tested positive for the virus. From April 6 to May 6, at a time when the state’s overall infection rate flattened, reported cases in Florida’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities grew from 283 to 4,661- with about a third of those in employees. Deaths have spiraled-from 122 in Mid-April to 665 on Friday, 40 percent of all coronavirus statewide.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced that a mobile testing unit will run round-the-clock shifts, starting in Miami-Dade County and processing about 500 tests a day. The goal is universal testing. “Without expanded testing, we cannot know who in our facilities, whether they are residents or caregivers, are COVID positive, making it extremely difficult to stop the spread of the virus.” Increased testing may show where hot spots are, but they still do not address the underlying causes fueling the spread of coronavirus. Advocates for the long-term care community coalition, feel that what we are seeing now is the failure to ensure that nursing homes are providing appropriate staffing. They say that as it may be expected that nursing homes would be hit hard, it was not inevitable that they would be hit this hard. The group is also pointing out that with inadequate staffing, are they undertaking effective and appropriate measures to control infections in their facilities.
It is stunning to ever imagine that as of today, the number of nursing home residents who have succumbed to the coronavirus in the United States has surpassed 10,000. This surge in deaths, accounting for about 20 percent of all coronavirus fatalities in the nation, comes as nursing homes across the country continue to struggle for effective strategies to fight the virus, which can quickly overwhelm the communal setting’s once it enters. The agency responsible for monitoring nursing care, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, has issued alerts throughout the pandemic, having nursing homes restrict visitation and to comply with infection control regulations.
However, the rapid spread of the disease in nursing homes is revealing vulnerabilities that need to be addressed even after the risk of coronavirus is less imminent. Mark Parkinson, the president of the American Health Care Association and an advocate for nursing homes, pointed to flaws in nursing home regulations and surveying as possible areas of improvement. He states that, “the things we hope to learn are that the survey process that has been used for nursing homes throughout the years is just broken, it is not revealing the right things.” He continues to comment that hopefully there will be a more collaborative approach that works better for residents and the system than the one we currently have.
Nursing homes have a duty of care to protect residents and patients from highly contagious diseases, including COVID-19. Many nursing homes have failed to take swift action to protect their employees and residents during this pandemic. In most cases, the spread of the virus could have been prevented by following the CDC’s guidelines. Since the start of the spread of COVID-19, many nursing home residents contacted the virus, and many have since lost their lives. If the pandemic guidelines were followed, this could have been prevented. If you lost a family member to COVID-19 while living in a nursing home, then you should seek legal advice to consider a lawsuit that may help you and your family recover compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one. Call The Badgley Law Group at 407-487-4154 for a free consultation.