Assisted living facility on Jacksonville’s Southside reports 5th coronavirus case

Florida Department of Health database shows there are 15 COVID-19 cases in Duval County, as of Thursday afternoon

Florida Department of Health database shows there are 15 COVID-19 cases in Duval County as of March 19th.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents at Camellia at Deerwood got an email Thursday morning informing them that another person living at the assisted living facility had a presumed positive diagnosis of COVID-19. The facility that houses seniors already had the very first case of the new coronavirus discovered in Duval County and reported its fourth positive test Wednesday.

“At this time, we have received confirmation from the Florida Department of Health that another one of our independent living residents has a presumed positive diagnosis of COVID-19,” the email from Senior Executive Director Renea McGrath to residents and family members Thursday morning states. “To our knowledge there is only one other resident with a pending test.”

The notice of a presumed fifth positive comes nearly a week after the facility confirmed the first case, an 83-year-old resident.

Family concerns are growing at this point. Some are hoping for the best and that their loved ones are untouched by the virus. Others have opted to remove their families from the facility.

As of 12 p.m. Thursday, according to the Florida Department of Health, there were 15 COVID-19 cases in Duval County.

“Our daily monitoring goes beyond simply observing and screening,” the email from McGrath said. “Our monitoring also includes taking the temperatures of each of our residents daily (at least once per day for independent living residents and at least twice per day for assisted living and memory care residents).”

For the last week, Virginia Lesperance’s mother Mary has been quarantined to her room at Camellia at Deerwood.

“We can still talk all the time but I haven’t been able to hug her,” Lesperance said with tears in her eyes. “Just go out and hang out with her and spending any time, so yeah, it’s hard.”

Based on the information sent to families, the majority of cases have been residents in independent living.

“So they eat meals together they go to the gym together, they do everything together,” Lesperance said. “I think it’s probably just assumed that these people came in contact with everybody because even the assisted-living people they all congregate together.”

Families can’t help but see what’s happening at Camellia at Deerwood in the context of Life Care Center in Washington state where 35 deaths were linked to the new coronavirus.

As of Thursday, no visitors were allowed into the facility, other than essential staff and medical personnel.

Residents are being restricted to their rooms to self-isolate with meals being delivered to their doors.

“I feel like they’re doing a fantastic job but it is scary,” Lesperance said. “Things are just out of your control. You just don’t know who brought it in, who is a carrier of it and it’s been tough but I did talk with my mom last night and her three sisters and I were able to FaceTime her.”

In an email to families, management thanked them for their ongoing support and said it was taking extra precautions. They are encouraging loved ones to stay connected with the residents through Facetime, Skype or phone calls.

News4Jax reached out to the facility to ask how ACHA and the Florida Department of Health were assisting them and if they were testing staff, but have yet to hear back.

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About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.