Long-term care COVID-19 deaths top 10,000

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Long-term care facilities were linked to about 35% of the 28,565 deaths of Floridians from COVID-19.

As a legislative debate builds about shielding nursing homes and other health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits, new numbers show that Florida has exceeded 10,000 deaths of long-term care facility residents and staff members from COVID-19.

With an additional 59 deaths reported Friday, total long-term care deaths reached 10,034 — with the vast majority involving residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

State leaders have worried since the early days of the pandemic about the threat of COVID-19 to long-term care residents, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease because of advanced ages and underlying health conditions.

As of Friday, long-term care facilities were linked to about 35% of the 28,565 deaths of Floridians from COVID-19, according to a report released by the state Department of Health. In all, 28 counties have had more than 100 long-term care deaths, with Palm Beach County topping the list with 974 deaths and Miami-Dade County next with 964.

More broadly, the respiratory disease has had a disproportionate impact on seniors.

Since the pandemic started, about 15% of the reported COVID-19 cases in the state have involved people ages 65 and older, the Department of Health report shows. But about 83% of the deaths have involved people in that age group — a rate that has remained consistent for months.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly pointed to the disease’s danger to seniors by prioritizing them for COVID-19 vaccinations. Through Wednesday, about 74% of the people in Florida who had received at least one dose of vaccine were 65 or older.

But amid the vaccination efforts, a debate has started in the Legislature about bills that would provide legal protections to health care providers facing potential lawsuits related to COVID-19.

While the bills would apply to hospitals, physicians and other types of providers, nursing homes likely will be a key issue. The Florida Health Care Association, the largest nursing-home group in the state, has been calling for legal protections since early in the pandemic.

“Our health care heroes should be celebrated for the lifesaving decisions they continue to make to protect our loved ones, not worried about the threat of lawsuits for delivering care during a crisis they did not create,” association Executive Director Emmett Reed said in a prepared statement this month after the Senate released its version of the bill (SB 74).

But AARP Florida has blasted the possibility of providing immunity to long-term care facilities.

“Let’s be clear: Stripping away the rights of older Floridians and their families is careless and irresponsible,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said in a statement this week. “Long-term care facilities must be accountable when their wrongdoing threatens the health — and lives — of residents and staff. Especially when isolated residents are vulnerable and often unable to advocate for themselves.”

The Senate bill cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, getting approval from the Judiciary Committee in a 6-4 vote. The House Health & Human Services Committee will consider the House version (PCB HHS 21-01) next week.

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Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida.

Jim Turner

Jim Turner is a Capitol reporter for the News Service of Florida, providing coverage on issues ranging from transportation and the environment to Legislative and Cabinet politics, which are some of the areas he worked in 20 years with TCPalm in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Jim grew up in Millburn, New Jersey, where he started his journalism career providing weekly reports on the high school soccer team --- of which he was a member--- to the local Millburn Item. Jim received degrees in journalism and history from High Point University in North Carolina.


One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    February 15, 2021 at 6:34 am

    This is the most disgusting piece of legislation being considered. No one is off the hook for substandard and killing of old folks. Unless there is a damn standard stfu. Now the standard is your job Duffus Desantis and Florida Representatives! So far the only standard is the most perverted form of herd immunity. Even if passed it will fail in the courts. It will also cement the failures of the GOPQ and the goptrump death cult sociopaths . Vote Democrat up and down ballot in Florida in 2022.

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