Despite silence from state, feds, 2nd Jacksonville long-term care facility reports COVID-19 case

Taylor Manor has 1 resident who has tested positive; Camellia at Deerwood reports at least 7 cases

Taylor Residences on Chester Avenue has one confirmed case of COVID-19. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than one Jacksonville long-term care facility has a patient who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but state and federal officials will not name the facilities where people got sick or say how many sick patients they have.

News4Jax learned Thursday that Taylor Manor on Chester Avenue in the San Jose area has one patient who tested positive.

State numbers show the Florida Department of Health tracking 41 cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities across the state. Duval County -- with 15 -- and Broward County have the most cases.

Jacksonville senior living facility Camellia at Deerwood on Jacksonville’s Southside has confirmed at least seven residents there have tested positive for COVID-19. At least one of their residents has died due to complications from the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“We wish to reassure you that the number of cases reported in senior living and long-term care in Duval County include other locations within our county, not just Camellia at Deerwood,” Executive Director Renea McGrath said in an email to families and residents on Thursday.

News4Jax has requested the name of any other facility experiencing an outbreak in Duval County from the Florida Department of Health, the Agency for Health Care Administration and Gov. Ron Desantis’ office.

The state DOH, AHCA, and -- on the federal level -- the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, refuse to disclose the names of the nursing homes or assisted living facilities that have infected residents, citing privacy concerns.

On a broader scale, 147 nursing homes among 15,000 across the United States have at least one resident with COVID-19. That’s according to a release published Monday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care, said Florida statutes protecting patient privacy do not rationalize withholding the names of facilities experiencing outbreaks.

“Look, they publish information about facilities all over their website. They have inspection results whenever there are scabies outbreaks, there are norovirus outbreaks, information is released. They can’t use that excuse any longer. It’s laughable,” Lee said. “They are not releasing anyone’s individual health care information. That’s what HIPAA is all about -- individual health information.”

In a tweet to Desantis, Families for Better Care recommended the administration prioritize personal protective equipment to health care workers, be transparent about any outbreaks and test all residents and staff immediately.

Management at Camellia at Deerwood told families in a letter Thursday that the incident command team that’s been stationed at the senior living center facility since Monday anticipates completing the remaining testing on residents and staff for COVID-19 on Thursday and plans to continue the sanitation process.

Virginia Lesperance’s 75-year-old mother lives in the independent living portion of Camellia at Deerwood. Lesperance said her mother isn’t showing any symptoms of COVID-19, but she was tested Wednesday.

“We haven’t heard of any more at Camellia yet. I know they have been saying on the news that there is more in long-term living facilities, so I am hoping they are not all at Camellia. We haven’t been informed of any more,” said Lesperance. “ I expect there probably will be more. It’s especially scary because people can be carriers of it without symptoms.

“Right now, I am hoping that now that everyone is being tested it will be sooner that this can get under control, at least at Camellia, and maybe lift the lockdown," Lesperance said. “That would be the nice thing.”

Big worries, few answers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday published findings of its analysis of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home outside Seattle where 129 people, including 81 residents, were infected. Ultimately, the agency found that COVID-19 “has the potential to result in high attack rates among residents, staff members and visitors” after being introduced into a facility.

The virus also has a way of spreading to nearby health-care facilities, federal and Washington state health officials involved in the investigation discovered. The analysis found that at least eight other long-term care facilities in the King County area outside of Seattle had reported one or more confirmed COVID-19 cases by March 9, just 10 days after the Life Care Center of Kirkland reported its first case.

Florida had nearly 21.48 million residents as of July 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. An estimated 20.5% are 65 or older. Florida has 691 licensed nursing homes that provide 84,258 beds and another 3,000-plus licensed ALFs that offer 106,103 beds.

DeSantis on March 14 banned all visitors to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult group homes to try to stem the spread of the disease.

Doug Adkins, owner of two assisted-living facilities in Nassau County, told The News Service of Florida that the number of long-term care providers with COVID-19 positive residents now is closer to 35. And he predicted the number will go even higher if the state doesn’t require testing of all long-term care residents and staff members.

“I think it’s going to be an incredibly major problem for us if we don’t get a real handle on this because we have too many people who are coming in and out of these facilities that are asymptomatic,” said Adkins, who owns Dayspring Village, a 126-bed ALF, and Dayspring Senior Living, a 32-bed ALF.

As of Tuesday night, Adkins said he had tested residents of both facilities and his administrative staff. He had previously told his 48 employees to get tested for free at a federal site in Jacksonville.

Adkins said he would get the results from the South Florida company he hired to administer the tests in the coming days. In the meantime, Adkins said he wouldn’t allow anyone who hadn’t been tested for the virus --- including home health care staff who assist residents --- to enter.

“You should not be working in a facility and not have been submitted to COVID-19 testing,” he said.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

About the Author:

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