Coronavirus sends almost two dozen Pinellas nursing home residents to hospitals

freedom square
An estimated 30 residents and six staff members are presumed positive.

The new coronavirus caused nearly two dozen residents of a Pinellas County nursing home to be taken to local hospitals Tuesday night.

The reason? Most tested positive for the virus and all had been presumed positive.

Freedom Square Seminole Nursing Pavilion in Seminole sent seven patients each to Morton Plant Hospital, Largo Medical Center and St. Anthony’s Hospital.

Others did not require hospitalization and are isolating. The facility includes both a rehabilitation center and an assisted living facility.

In all, an estimated 30 patients and six staff members are presumed positive for COVID-19.

The information was first provided to Florida Politics by a hospital staff member who treated three of the patients Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The person, who asked not to be identified, said the patients at one hospital were in stable condition. The person asked that the hospital also not be named. The status of those at the other hospitals was not immediately known.

The Florida Health Department in Pinellas County said it did not have additional information and referred a reporter to the Agency for Health Care Administration and the affected nursing home for comment.

Freedom Square Executive Director Michael Mason on Wednesday declined to immediately comment on the issue as his team was working to communicate with employees, residents and family members. He said the facility was putting preventative measures in place.

Twenty-eight cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronairus, were confirmed, Assistant County Administrator Lourdes Benedict told the Tampa Bay Times, which made inquiries after Florida Politics first reported the outbreak. Other residents at the facility will be tested and it’s being cleaned. The facility is at 7800 Liberty Lane in Seminole.

Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard confirmed the information Wednesday evening.

“I talked with [County Administrator] Barry Burton and he said it absolutely is true about the transfers. They did it last night. Today they finished testing all the rest. Apparently, the facility was initially reluctant to transfer the patients, but they were overwhelmed,” Gerard wrote in a text message.

It was not immediately clear whether Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ National Guard “strike teams” had visited the nursing home facility. Ten strike teams of four guardsmen recently began spot-checking residents in the hardest-hit counties. If personal protective equipment is available, the state plans to expand those efforts.

The strike teams will randomly, but voluntarily, test patients and staff for the coronavirus.

The news comes as Florida health officials, under DeSantis’ administration, continue refusing to disclose which long-term care facilities have had cases. The state reports a statewide number of cases at facilities but doesn’t detail where they are.

DeSantis’ legal team sought to block a request from the Miami Herald seeking the names of all elder-care facilities that have had a resident or worker who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Herald planned to file a lawsuit compelling the state to divulge those records, but DeSantis’ general counsel pressured Herald attorney Sanford Bohrer to abandon the suit through his law firm, Holland & Knight. The firm later agreed to step aside.

However, the Herald still plans to move forward with its lawsuit through another law firm.

For the latest on this continuing story, read here.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


13 comments

  • Kim Larsen

    April 16, 2020 at 12:53 am

    My father passed away in December 2019 while residing in a long term “skilled nursing “ facility.
    I am sorry to say this but after him being in three different nursing homes in Pinellas County – please hurry and check on them as soon as possible! Please

  • Emily Derrough

    April 16, 2020 at 7:47 am

    My mother who resides at Lake Seminole Square received notice that one of their residents was hospitalized with Covid19.

    • Janell Terrall

      April 16, 2020 at 10:21 am

      You have address wrong for the facility in question.

      • Janelle Irwin Taylor

        April 16, 2020 at 10:48 am

        Thank you for the comment. Google lists a different address, you are correct in that regard. However, the facility’s address, as listed on its own website, is as reported.

  • [email protected]

    April 16, 2020 at 8:43 am

    So patients not in distress..just test positive ..yea that makes a lot on sense let’s contaminte the all the Hospitals as well..The person making this decision should be FIRED

    • Anes11

      April 16, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Exactly!! This is so overblown. Every nursing home death will be blamed on COVID.

  • Susan

    April 16, 2020 at 10:17 am

    My daughter worked at freedom square and was NEVER told of any cases of covid -EVER. She took leave of absence when she felt unsafe as an employee there. They need to be forthcoming to protect the residents AND the staff. This seems very inappropriate and should be further investigated. I pray for the people affected.

    • Anonymous

      April 16, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      You are right. It was a kept secret from the staff. Not to mention that 2 weeks ago a CNA was allowed to work with a fever >100°F for DAYS because they felt fine. That came from the top. Epic fail. Multiple people should at minimum be fired for this.

  • Paul

    April 16, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    It’s pretty frustrating trying to get accurate information about Covid 19. TB Times states several residents sent to the hospital but this article claims 21? Big difference and not sure which one to believe. Either way the headline is misleading…21 residents does not equal dozens as stated in the headline!! Hard to trust the media anymore.

  • Anonymous

    April 16, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    My daughter works at Freedom Square, they are forced to wear the same face mask for 5 days! They have to sign a paper when they get one and they will get fired if they refused. This placed is hell they just care about money. Every patient is a number for them.
    I hope someone do something about it, before more innocent people die.

  • Kim Larsen

    April 16, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    Autopsies are not performed on nursing home residents-
    so we will never know……

  • Bob

    April 16, 2020 at 11:30 pm

    Thank you for reporting this Janelle.
    My Grandmother is in Asst Living at their sister location Seminole Square. The one Covid patient I was told about was supposedly released from a rehab and sent back to her apartment at Seminole Square on Friday, showed symptoms on Monday when she was admitted to a hospital and remains there.
    Seminole Square does not have a rehab or skilled nursing division so they naturally promote their residents to use Freedom Square facilities. No matter what rehab this resident was in, during this time should it not be mandatory that they remain in place at least until they’re tested?
    I’m having a difficult time getting any information on how this is being handled and what the current FL guidelines are.

  • Charline Cristofori

    April 17, 2020 at 12:42 am

    I moved to Freedom Square, Hamilton Building almost 5 years ago and since that time there has been many unforeseen and unwelcome changes. In the old days this building was completely an Independent Living facility. Our building has now been renovated and the first 3 floors is now Assisted Living which is home for those individuals requiring extra care. Their needs brings with it additional staff and vendors to our building and elevators.

    The next four floors are still Independent Living. The hazard of having only 2 elevators and only one key fob per resident can culminate in a crisis waiting to happen in this building.

    While under the old ownership all residents were allowed two key fobs and had two less burdened elevators. Does management not understand how this one key fob rule and now only 2 overused elevators can possibly create additional problems for residents in this building during and after this particular crisis? I think not!

    This week when my neighbor was locked out she had to take the elevator down 6 floors to get a key card at the lobby desk. The rule just recently changed to allow only 2 residents per elevator due to this Covid-19 crisis. After the resident managed to get down to the lobby and back up to her door with this key card she then had to return the key card to the lobby desk exposing her to additional risks. This resident now had to wait in the lobby with others including large carts hauling garbage or soiled linens being rolled around, and up and down our 7 floors. These two elevators are now a frightening source of ways to pick up any “bug” brought in by any of the added staff members required for the care of those individuals who now are in residence of the first 3 floors or Assisted Living units. The added and necessary staff have jobs that might require them to be actively involved on other parts of this large and lovely campus. These necessary extra aides have been seen on the elevators bobbing up and down the first 3 floors with their face masks dangling while trying to relax from all the added stress they encounter while caring for the needs of those in assisted living. It has been suggested in the interest of safety that management should reprogram one elevator to be used for those working or residing in assisted living for their use only. This would help prevent their extra staff from commingling with those of us in Independent living exposing them from any possible “bug” that we might bring in from our daily travels around the community.

    It has also been suggested that the side doors be monitored by the lobby staff using the provided TV monitor now on the lobby desk. We are being told that we can only have one key fob because that provides extra security for all residents. This inane rule is penalizing only single residents who already are considered half of a pair and now we are to lose more of our
    independence because we no longer have a help mate able to share our lives or help with our problems. Hopefully the future holds no fungus among us or some lost key fob to rob us of what is left of our golden years here in Freedom Square simply because management now surreptitiously puts profits above safety and comfort in what was once considered our independent life style. Char

Comments are closed.


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