COVID-19 cases climb in Florida nursing homes & long-term care facilities

Editor's Note: This story published July 17 was updated to include the response from the CEO of Taylor Care Center. Other information in the story has not changed since it was originally published.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Reported COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities are climbing again in Florida, both in residents and employees.

The state has sent test kits to facilities specifically for their workers. Data from the Florida Department of Health on Thursday show two deaths in the past week at Park Ridge Nursing Center in Jacksonville.

Carolann Essex was one of the more than 3,000 people living at long-term care facilities in Florida who tested positive for COVID-19. Craig Romero, her son, said his mother died after contracting the virus.

“Didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. We didn’t have a chance to say send her to the hospital,” said Romero.

He told News4Jax that after his mother passed, his family learned she tested positive on July 4 was put on oxygen on July 10 and died July 11.

Romero sent News4Jax a letter from Park Ridge dated July 8, but said his family didn’t get it until the July 13.

The letter tells families that several residents and staff at the facility have tested positive, that the facility has lost residents due to the virus and that some residents are doing well and expect to recover -- knowing that can change.

“It’s just terrible. If I could help one person save their mom or dad, I think I did good and my mother would appreciate it because we didn’t have that choice and she didn’t have that choice,” said Romero.

As of Thursday, there were 10 positive residents, 11 positive residents had been transferred and 34 staff members had tested positive at Park Ridge.

News4Jax spoke with an employee at Taylor Care Center, another assisted living facility in Jacksonville, who said her job tested her Thursday, after what she said is supposed to be bi-weekly testing. She asked to remain anonymous.

“I do feel as though it’s not effective, and I feel as though we should be getting tested a lot more frequently,” the woman said.

The state reports as of Thursday that 6,368 staff members in long-term care facilities across Florida have tested positive.

“It’s a large number and even with my job you may not fill a slot but there are over 30 employees who have it and you can just imagine how understaffed my company is now. I feel like it really takes the company’s dedication to isolate. When I go in, I don’t stay designated to one hall so they just bounce me around. I go from positive halls to negative halls,” the woman said.

Taylor Care Center had 34 positive residents, 19 positive residents transferred, and 30 positive staff members, as of Thursday.

News4Jax has contacted both Taylor Care Center and Park Ridge with questions about informing families of residents and how they are testing and designating staff. We have not heard from Park Ridge, but the CEO of Taylor, John Barber, sent this response 10 days later:

“We are in full compliance with all the requirements and guidelines by CDC, AHCA, and the local health department. We do inform each resident and their POA about the condition of their loved ones and what we are doing to protect each of them with email blasts almost weekly,” Barber wrote.

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