JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At 7:41 a.m. Tuesday, families got another email from Jacksonville assisted living facility Camellia at Deerwood.
The facility that houses seniors already had the very first case of the new coronavirus in Duval County.
Less than a week after confirming an 83-year-old resident tested positive for COVID-19, the facility told families about the third resident and fourth resident to be diagnosed with the virus.
As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Florida Department of Health, there were six COVID-19 cases in Duval County -- five men and one woman ranging in age from 57 to 91.
Patricia, who is using another name to protect her privacy, sent the News4Jax I-TEAM the Tuesday morning email from management at Camellia at Deerwood. Her mother lives at the facility.
“It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying. If anything were to happen, she is up there alone. We can’t get in to visit. It’s not that she knows how to do FaceTime, so I can’t even see her,” Patricia said. “You can’t imagine how afraid I am.”
Patricia said she can’t help but see what’s happening at Camellia at Deerwood in the context of Life Care Center in Washington state. That nursing home has been referred to as the United States epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak after more than a dozen residents there died from the virus.
“She’s terrified. I’m terrified. We all know Washington state hanging over us,” Patricia said. “The fact that that could happen and snowball. We went from 1, 2 to 4. It’s unfathomable.”
In the letter sent out Tuesday to residents and families, the senior executive director said one individual is a resident of the independent living side and the other is a resident of assisted living.
“The Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Agency for Healthcare Administration (ACHA) remain closely involved in addition to the medical professionals. At this time there are no remaining pending tests for residents,” said Senior Executive Director Renea McGrath.
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The I-TEAM reached out to the ACHA, which told us that we would need to get the information from the Florida Department of Health as the lead health organization for the coronavirus in the state. At the time of publication, the state Department of Health had not returned our email asking how the Department of Health is monitoring and assisting in containing the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities and how many residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to Camellia at Deerwood, the first two people diagnosed at the facility remain quarantined in the hospital in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
McGrath went on to say they changed how they do laundry and how they deliver mail at the facility. Already, the assisted living facility is restricting visitors’ access to only include essential individuals that have been screened and had their temperature checked. They say they are also monitoring residents and associates for any signs and symptoms daily and isolating any people who had direct contact with the residents who tested positive for the virus.
Other families are concerned, too, about the spread of COVID-19 in a facility full of vulnerable seniors.
Virginia Lesperance said her 75-year-old mother lives at Camellia at Deerwood. She talked to the I-TEAM Monday after learning of the second person diagnosed with COVID-19 at the facility.
She said she is confident that the people at Camellia at Deerwood are equipped to best take care of her mother, but wants to know if all the residents can be tested for the virus.
“I am trying to be optimistic. As long as my mom is in good spirits, and as long as I can talk to her and check on her, then I know it’s going to be OK. But I do worry about it becoming worse,” Lesperance said.
The I-TEAM also reached out to corporate management at Camellia at Deerwood. Management told us they would answer our questions Tuesday afternoon. We have not heard back yet.