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700 in NE Florida long-term care facilities have died due to COVID-19 complications

Vaccine appears to be making an impact, expert says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida surpassed a grim milestone in February with more than 10,000 people in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities dying of COVID-19 complications since March 2020.

Robin Ohar lost her father Andrew, 92, at the start of the pandemic. He died after catching the coronavirus inside Heartland Healthcare in Orange Park.

For months, Ohar watched as lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines were administered to seniors inside long-term care facilities, including the facility where her father passed.

“I’m trying not to look in the past and neither is my family,” said Ohar. “I wish it had come out sooner for someone like my father. Would it have made a difference? I think it would have. He was part of the collateral damage of this illness.”

Andrew Ohar is one of 10,034 residents and staff who have died from coronavirus complications in Florida’s long-term care facilities, according to the data from the Florida Department of Health. More than 700 of those deaths happened in Northeast Florida. It’s the most up to date data this week, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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The heartbreaking milestone comes as a top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told lawmakers the administration delayed reported deaths in its long-term care facilities. The Associated Press reports for months the Cuomo administration dramatically underreported the statewide number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents.

Since December, more than 225,000 residents and staff in Florida long-term care facilities have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kristen Knapp is with the Florida Healthcare Association. Knapp says the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was riddled with challenges, including lack of PPE and proper isolation rooms in long-term care facilities. She says after more than a year and a spike in cases following the holiday season, cases of the virus are beginning to decline inside long-term care facilities.

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“I think the vaccine is playing a big part of that, you know, again, our residents we’ve seen in our nursing homes, all of them have had their first clinics, most of our ALFs, I believe, if not all have had their first dose clinics completed. Second dose clinics in both the ALFs and the nursing homes are underway, and we are even starting to see some third dose clinic start,” said Knapp.

For Robin Ohar, the hits keep coming. After losing her father to COVID-19, seven of her immediate family members tested positive for the coronavirus. One of her family members was hospitalized for two weeks and thankfully was released just before Valentine’s Day.

“I hope is that my father’s death, and all the other seniors, their deaths won’t be in vain,” said Ohar.


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