Families pull loved ones from assisted living center after coronavirus-related death

An 83-year-old man who lived at Camellia at Deerwood died after testing positive for COVID-19.

2 more residents test positive for coronavirus at Camellia at Deerwood

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Families are choosing to remove their relatives from a Jacksonville assisted living facility dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus.

An 83-year-old man who lived at Camellia at Deerwood on the Southside died after testing positive for COVID-19. Five people at the facility have tested presumptive positive and a sixth test is pending.

One resident is resting in self-quarantine at her daughter’s home after her family decided to remove her from memory care at the facility this week.

Timeline: A deadly virus spreads through a Jacksonville assisted living facility

The family told News4Jax as the number of people who tested positive grew, so did her family’s anxiety.

Suzanne Duvall said after a family meeting, they decided to remove their 82-year-old mother Judy, who has Alzheimer’s disease and bring her home.

“You know my mom’s up there she was a sitting duck,” Duvall said. “We can’t go in and visit her. You know we are probably not going to go in and be able to visit her for months right and who knows what’s going to happen.”

Duvall said her 83-year-old father saw it on the news started freaking out.

“We just felt extremely uncomfortable as a family having since this virus is very hard for the elderly to kick,” she said. “She is now resting comfortably and I feel one-hundred percent that I did the right thing by evacuating her out of there.”

The spread of the virus has mostly impacted the independent living unit at the facility, according to emails sent to families.

Management at Camellia started isolating residents after the first person was diagnosed.

They are delivering meals to residents, laundry rooms are closed and staff is taking the temperature of any essential staff that comes into the facility.

According to an email from the facility’s senior executive director, the facility continues to follow the recommendations and guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Florida Department of Health (DOH), and the Agency for Healthcare Administration (ACHA).

“At this time there are no more confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 affecting our community,” director Renea McGrath said in an email Friday. “There is one test result pending for one additional resident who is also quarantined in a hospital.”

In the email, Dr. Kevin O’Neil, who partnered with the assisted living facility, issued a statement: “Staying in the senior living community is likely the best place for your loved one right now considering the aggressive infection control measures that are taking place. Leaving a community may expose your loved one to others who may not have symptoms but are infected and shedding the virus.”

Although Duvall is taking things into her own hands with her own mother, she’s hoping the virus hasn’t spread any further within the facility.

“It’s just for them to survive so much and then to be you know have this virus be so deadly to the older people. It’s just really sad,” she said. “And I think we should do everything we can to you know to stay home and follow the CDC guidelines so that other people don’t get sick.”

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees addressed the assisted facility during a press conference Friday.

“When we become aware of this, we will send in a strike team,” Rivkees said. “A strike team will consist of nurse, epidemiologist, infection control specialist and somebody from ACHA. We will go door to door. We actually did this earlier this week. We checked every resident for their temperature. We made sure these individuals are well, made sure they’re isolated, made sure the facility has proper decontamination and cleaning protocols in place. If we found a resident who was ill, we made sure that person has medical attention. I can’t emphasize enough, we have to keep COVID out of these facilities. We have to make sure workers going in there are screened, make sure contractors are screened. We have a command center where if a facility has a concern, they can call. It’s manned 24 hours a day. We will send in teams.”

About the Author:

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