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As COVID-19 Cases Climb In Central Florida Nursing Homes, Advocacy Group Proposes Solution

The latest available chart depicts the rise of COVID-19 cases in Florida's nursing homes among residents (top) and staff. Source: Florida Dept of Health

The latest available chart depicts the rise of COVID-19 cases in Florida's nursing homes among residents (top) and staff. Source: Florida Dept of Health

The number of COVID-19 cases is still climbing in Central Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But a local advocacy group has reached out to the federal government with a proposal to turn that around.

The COVID-19 outbreak at Highlands Lake Center in Lakeland is one of the largest and deadliest in the state. Eighty-four cases, according to the Florida Department of Health – 61 residents and 23 staff members. Twelve residents have died.

Central Florida’s second largest reported outbreak is at the Coquina Center in Ormond Beach, with a total of 60 cases – 46 residents and 14 staff members. Nine residents have died.

Brian Lee is with the advocacy group Families for Better Care. He says point-of-care rapid-testing machines are key to stopping the alarming COVID-19 spread in the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

And, he says, there’s money to buy the machines – it’s available in the form of nursing home improvement grants that are funded by the fines that nursing homes pay in when they’re not compliant with state laws.

“If we were able to get one of these machines in every nursing home, we could start testing all of the residents and all of the staff tomorrow, says Lee. “It will slow down this virus. In fact, it won’t only slow it, it will stop it altogether.”

Lee says his organization has provided this information to the federal government.

Tampa-based Opis Senior Services Group owns both the Highlands Lake Center and the Coquina Center, and a handful of others across Florida. Officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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Nicole Darden Creston

About Nicole Darden Creston

All Things Considered Host and Reporter

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from ... Read Full Bio »