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Twenty percent of COVID-19 deaths in Florida have been in nursing homes. Image via AP.

Coronavirus in Florida

In much of North Florida, COVID-19 outbreak is nursing home crisis

In some counties dozens of COVID-19 cases traced to 1 or 2 facilities

Throughout much of North Florida, the coronavirus crisis has largely been a nursing home and rehabilitation center emergency, with at least a third of COVID-19 cases and deaths traced to long-term care facilities in seven counties.

In Suwannee County, more than 80% of the caseload, 77 of 90 cases, and all six COVID-19 deaths have been traced to the Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center in Live Oak, according to data released Saturday by the Florida Department of Health.

In Jefferson County, an outbreak at the Cross Landings Health and Rehabilitation Center in Monticello appears to have sickened 19 people and killed one, representing more than two-thirds of that county’s cases and its only COVID-19 death through Saturday.

And in Leon County, 64 of 176 cases, fully 36% of the county’s COVID-19 caseload, and Leon’s only COVID-19 death through Saturday have been traced to the Tallahassee Developmental Center, according to data released Saturday by the Florida Department of Health.

On Saturday, responding to mounting pressure from some lawmakers, senior-care advocates, and the media, Gov. Ron DeSantis instructed the Department of Health to disclose the names of long-term care facilities where COVID-19 cases have been found.

In response to that release, the Florida Health Care Association said their number one priority is the health and well-being of patients.

“Part of the process has been open dialogue among long-term care facilities and our partners at the local, state, and federal levels,” the group wrote. “We recognize that this decision is based on the need for transparent flow of information during this challenging time.”

The information released Saturday does not specify which or even how many cases or deaths might be attributed to any one center. Nor do the data reveal whether the infected people are residents or staff members of centers.

However, the department already had been releasing raw data on COVID-19 cases found among long-term care facilities in each county. A cross-check of the two data sets reveals how narrowly-focused some of the outbreaks are, particularly in North Florida, sometimes largely centering on just one, two, or three facilities.

In Baker County, 12 of the county’s cases and all three of its deaths have been attributed to two centers, the Macclenny Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and the W. Frank Wells Nursing Home.

In Bradford County, 28 off the 42 cases and both COVID-19 deaths are traced to two centers, Riverwood Health & Rehabilitation Center, and Windsor Health & Rehabilitation Center.

Clay County has seen 89 of 227 cases the county has suffered so far, and four of the county’s 11 COVID-19 deaths, traced to one of six long-term care facilities that the state says have each had at least one case.

In several other North Florida counties, Escambia, Okaloosa, Levy, and Madison, officials about one in five COVID-19 cases reported have been attributed to long-term care facilities.

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An earlier version of this story had erroneously listed an outbreak at the Magnolia House in Gadsden County. To date there has only been one reported case associated with that facility, a staff member who tested positive.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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