Florida sends out ‘strike teams’ to conduct more testing as COVID-19 is reported in area nursing homes

‘Strike teams’ test residents and staff of long-term care facilities all over state

Nursing home residents are among those most at risk should they contract the COVID-19 virus, due to their ages and other health factors. Last week, the state started sending “strike teams” to area long-term care facilities to test residents and staff. In an April 24 press conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said 50 teams of nurses will travel the state to test all of the nursing homes. Facilities that already have positive cases confirmed will receive priority.

According to Okeechobee Health Care Facility spokeswoman Jennifer Williamson, tests on 231 staff members and 163 residents were collected Friday, April 24. The main person in charge of the team from the governor’s office arrived ahead of the team, said Ms. Williamson. “He trained our nurses on how to administer the test, and we began testing.” OHCF nurses tested 231 staff and 106 residents. Nurses from the state testing team arrived around 6 p.m. Friday and completed testing the remaining 57 residents.

On April 21, OHCF learned a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19. When they first discovered the staff member was COVID-19 positive, OHCF secured the unit where the positive staff member was working. Only staff assigned to that unit are permitted entrance. All residents on that unit will be quarantined for 14 days. The staff member who tested positive no longer has symptoms and has tested negative twice, according to Ms. Williamson.

As the current number of samples waiting to be tested have overloaded the state testing labs, the OHCF tests were sent to a lab out of state, Okeechobee County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said at the commission’s April 27 emergency meeting. He said they expect test results back later this week.

State teams also visited long-term care facilities in Hendry and Palm Beach counties last week.

“The Florida Department of Health also sent an incident management team to Hendry County last week to provide testing for the long-term care facilities. We are expecting test results this week,” shared a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health Hendry-Glades.

Palm Beach County has 45 long-term care facilities where residents and/or staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The Florida Department of Health Daily updates now include current conditions at long-term care facilities that have COVID-19 positive cases. The report shows the number of patients who are currently COVID-19 positive; the number “transferred out” of the current cases (which can mean they recovered and are no longer positive or they are no longer at the facility); and the number of staff members who tested positive.

Staff members who test positive are required to self isolate and must test negative twice before being allowed to return to work.

As of April 28:
• OakBrook Health and Rehabilition Center, in LaBelle, has six current COVID-19 positive, three COVID-19 positive transferred out, and two staff who tested positive.
• Clewiston Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility has no current positive cases, four transferred out and five staff members who tested positive.
• Okeechobee Health Care Facility has zero current positive; zero transferred out, one staff member who tested positive.
• Glades Health Care Center, Pahokee, has zero current positive; zero transferred out, and one staff member who tested positive.

Current cases
As testing continues statewide, the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the South Central Florida counties has increased. As of the midday FDOH report on April 28:
• Okeechobee County has 10 confirmed positive cases with five hospitalized. The cases range in age from 33 to 76. Of the 360 total tests, 349 were negative and one is pending results. The testing number will more than double when the OHCF results are added later in the week. Zip code 34974 has five cases. Zip code 34972 has four cases. One case is a non-resident.
• Glades County has five confirmed positive cases, ranging in age from 30 to 89, with three hospitalizations and one death. Of the 60 total tests, 55 were negative. All of the Glades County cases are in zip code 33471 (Moore Haven).
• Hendry County has 72 confirmed positive cases, ranging in age from 2 to 101. Two people have died, 19 hospitalized. Of the 510 tests, 437 were negative. Zip code 33440 (Clewiston, Harlem, Montura and Pioneer) has 57 cases. Zip code 33935 (LaBelle, Port LaBelle, Fort Denaud) has 15 cases.
• Palm Beach County has 26,928 tested with 2,877 positive, 23,754 negative and the rest awaiting test results. The positive cases range in age from 0 to 104. There have been 173 deaths and 423 hospitalizations. Zip code 33430 (Belle Glade and part of South Bay) has 93 positive cases. Zip code 33493 (South Bay) has 26 positive cases. Zip code 33476 has 21 positive cases.

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