More than 400 of Florida's COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes, state says

Posted at 10:20 AM, May 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-03 10:26:03-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (ABC NEWS) -- Among the 1,364 deaths in Florida during the novel coronavirus pandemic, more than 400 have occurred inside long-term care facilities, according to data released by the state's health department on Friday.

Those deaths inside the facilities included both residents and staff, according to the data. In three separate facilities, there have been 14 deaths -- 13 residents and one staff member.

Florida health authorities also released data on how many positive COVID-19 cases there have been in the state's long-term care facilities. There were 1,429 positive residents as of May 1 across 424 facilities, the majority of whom later were transferred elsewhere. No information was provided as to where.

The data showed that as of Friday, 1,374 staff members had texted positive, as the state's total cases increased to 35,463, according to the health department.

The data, which they plan to update weekly, was released after multiple local outlets filed suit under the state's public records law seeking those numbers. The state had hesitated for weeks on releasing the figures. Even after the numbers were released, The Miami Herald, one of the outlets that filed suit, questioned its reliability.

The newspaper pointed out that more than a month ago, administrators at one facility in Fort Lauderdale confirmed that at least six residents had died of COVID-19. The chart released Friday includes only three resident deaths as "confirmed," while three remained "under investigation," the paper noted. The Herald noted other inconsistencies, including how four facilities that have reported at least one death weren't listed among those with positive cases.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health responded to the newspaper's inquiry on the matter, saying: "Questions received. We are looking into this." The state's health department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

One of the hardest-hit facilities, one that's seen at least 14 deaths, the Braden River Rehabilitation Center LLC, said in a statement to ABC News that it had released similar information more than a week ago.

"As we have said, we believe this information is important to provide transparency so residents, their loved ones, and the community have an accurate picture of COVID-19's impact on our center and our extensive measures to limit its spread," Susan Kaar, a spokeswoman for Southern Healthcare Management, which manages the facility, said in a statement. "Our paramount priority is, and always has been, the health and well-being of our residents and staff, and we grieve the loss of those who have passed during the pandemic due to underlying health conditions that may have been complicated by COVID-19."

She added that the management company believes "the state's regular release of this information will show that our actions are being effective against this terrible virus."

The two other facilities with 14 deaths did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.