MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — A rapid emergency support team is stepping up to help two Manatee County rehabilitation and nursing home facilities linked to nearly two dozen COVID-19 deaths.
At just two nursing homes, at least 141 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and 23 people have died, according to a spokesperson for the facilities.
Those two nursing homes, Braden River Rehabilitation Center in Bradenton and Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Centers in Palmetto, are owned by the same company.
Manatee County Department of Health leaders are calling the situation “dire.”
On Thursday, people wearing masks, gowns and face shields went in and out of the two facilities and assessment teams showed up to retrain staff on ways to keep the outbreak from spreading.
Lawrence Watkins’ mother passed away April 14 from COVID-19. She was living at Braden River for a few years and was being treated for dementia. At first, staff contacted Watkins to tell him that his mom, Carol “Dorothy” Davis, had a slight fever. When her temperature peaked to 103 degrees, staff decided to transfer her to a nursing home.
He never imagined he would have to say goodbye to his mom via video chat. A nurse arranged a zoom session to allow Watkins and his daughter to see Davis one last time.
“Myself and my daughter were here and we got to see her and say goodbye and basically tell her it’s okay and she put up a good fight,” Watkins said with emotion.
The company that owns both nursing homes, Southern Healthcare Management, LLC. tell us they immediately tested all staff and residents once they noticed an uptick in cases and that “they are grieving for the treasured members who passed.”
Manatee county is the 15th most populous county in Florida, but now has the fourth highest COVID-19 deaths.
In Pinellas County, 7 people have now died after contracting COVID-19 at a Seminole nursing home. Freedom Square has now had at least 87 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
Barbara Namias’ mom, who lives at Freedom Square, is waiting for her test results to come back. Namias made 25 calls Wednesday to ensure her mother would be tested.
“It was a nightmare. All day we spent jumping through hoops. There are a lot of people out there who are going to be in this situation and I just pray that they do something about it and step up to the plate,” she said.
Pinellas County is sending a rapid emergency support team to all longterm care facilities with COVID-19 cases. The focus is on re-training staff to prevent future outbreaks. Freedom Square is also hoping to get help from the National Guard within the next few days.
“I’m not just speaking out for my mom, although she is the highest on my list, there are a lot of other patients there that need a voice,” she added.