3 Pinellas nursing home residents dead amid coronavirus outbreak at Seminole facility

Elderly man with caregiver in nursing home. Concept of Coronavirus epidemic
The facility began evacuating 39 remaining patients at 3 p.m. Friday.

A Seminole nursing home plagued in recent days by dozens of cases of COVID-19 is evacuating its entire facility after nearly 60 residents were transferred to area hospitals who had either tested positive (or were presumed positive) for coronavirus.

According to Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard, three residents have died.

The Seminole Nursing Pavilion at Freedom Square, the nursing home portion of the large facility, has transported 58 residents to local hospitals since at least Tuesday night, facility managers previously said.

Commissioners received notification Friday that, “based upon an assessment and consensus of DOH (Department of Health,) the facility, HCA, Baycare and EMS, the nursing home portion of the facility will be completely evacuated.”

The message, first shared by WTSP reporter Jennifer Titus, indicated 39 patients remained at the facility.

“This will allow the facility and DOH to completely reset the facility’s infection control practices, decontaminate the site, provide additional training for staff, etc.,” the message read.

Seminole Fire and Sunstar began the evacuation process at 3 p.m. Friday. It was unclear what accommodations were being made for remaining patients at the facility.

Freedom Square did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

According to Gerard, the facility had been having difficulty managing its situation, but, much to her frustration, never reached out for help.

“We have PPE we can share with them but they don’t tell us they need it,” Gerard said.

Multiple sources who asked not to be named have told Florida Politics the facility lacked adequate personal protective equipment and, in many cases, were using homemade facial coverings not medically graded to protect against the virus. They were also reportedly being to told to use the same gown for multiple shifts.

Asked previously about workers’ access to PPE, Michael Mason, Freedom Square executive director, declined to answer specifically. He did say the facility has preventative measures in place and  he thinks the facility is in a “comfortable position.” Mason made those comments before commissioners became aware of PPE shortages at the facility.

Gerard said county emergency management officials are now reaching out to all nursing homes and longterm care facilities in the county to see if they need help.

Statewide there are problems with long-term care facilities’ access to PPE. The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) said only 47% of nursing homes have enough protective equipment to last two weeks while 80% have enough to last a week. And most facilities’ supplies would be depleted if a resident or staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

Tuesday night 38 residents were transferred to hospitals, according to Freedom Square.

By Friday, another 20 had been sent to area hospitals.

On Wednesday, Florida Politics first reported, with confirmation from a county official, that 21 individuals who were positive or presumed positive were transferred to local hospitals — seven each to Morton Plant, Largo Medical Center and St. Anthony’s. At the time, it was estimated that 30 residents and six employees were either infected or likely infected.

Freedom Square officials said a patient at the Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation Center on its campus tested positive for COVID-19 on April 9, the facility’s first known case.

As of Thursday, they said 21 residents and six employees have tested positive for the disease at the rehab center.

As of Friday morning, there were 83 cases of coronavirus reported in Pinellas County longterm care facilities, up from 64 Thursday. Those cases are likely from Freedom Square, though the state does not provide details on which facilities have cases.

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].


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