Clay County won’t release number of COVID-19 cases, deaths at long-term care facilities

Clay Clay county 6th in state in nursing home COVID-19 cases
Clay Clay county 6th in state in nursing home COVID-19 cases

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Officials heading Clay County’s coronavirus response said they will not release the number of cases or deaths at each long-term care facility with confirmed COVID-19 cases, and that they are following the directions of the surgeon general and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“One thing that will not be released and will not be discussed as the state manages this information is the numbers that are at each facility or if there have been any fatalities at each facility,” said John Ward, the Clay Emergency Management director.

Clay had 255 cases of COVID-19 by Wednesday, with nearly half of those cases in their long-term care facilities, according to figures released by the Florida Department of Health.

Health officials identified seven facilities in Clay County on Saturday that together account for all 115 positive cases of the novel coronavirus in long-term care residents and staff in the county. Six people have died after contracting COVID-19 in Clay County long-term care facilities.

Heather Hoffman, the Clay County Health Department administrator, said Wednesday that she didn’t see value in reporting the number of cases and deaths in each facility.

“This is the first time you have actually been able to get facility information. We don’t see the point in telling you if it’s one case or three at this point. It’s not going to change the situation,” Hoffman said.

Brian Lee, with Families for Better Care, said having the full data does make a difference for families.

“Knowing the severity of the outbreak helps families make better care decision for their loved ones. For example, if it’s one person, who is a caregiver, and is on leave, self-isolating at home, that’s much different than if it’s five residents who are continuing to live in the facility. Safety protocols are different. Potential for spread is different depending on whose been exposed and the number of people affected,” Lee said.

Ward pointed out that the list of facilities with positive cases is a concurrent list.

“They could have had a case added a month ago or six weeks ago and it’s still going to be on that list. As they get cases it’s going to be continually added to that and it won’t be taken off,” said Ward.

Georgia released a list of long-term care facilities with cases of novel coronavirus, including the count of COVID-19 positive residents, staff and resident deaths at each facility.

An attorney specializing in nursing home law has told News4Jax this data is public information and not protected under federal law that shields personal patient information.

News4Jax has requested comment from all seven of the facilities on the list and heard back from directors at Brookdale at Orange Park, Heartland Healthcare at Orange Park and Seagrass at Fleming Island. All three facilities chose not to disclose the specific amount of cases they had at their facility, but said they are communicating specifics to families.

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