The new coronavirus is linked to 1,502 deaths among residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in Florida, a new state report shows. It’s an increase of 145 deaths in one week. This is particularly sad when we remember the patients that died in the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma. While there was a disaster, the main cause of the loss of life at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills was a breakdown of the system. The Hollywood police department and state investigators failed to check on nursing homes in the areas with the largest damage.
The current situation is again a failure by state and local officials to provide tests and protective equipment to nursing home staff. If staff in all 600 nursing homes in the state were tested for COVID-19 and provided protective equipment, it is not disputable that the numbers would have been reduced.
It is not too late. While there is no vaccine, we can test all nursing home staff for COVID-19. We can test them for both current infection and test them to see if they have been exposed and have anti-bodies to the COVID-19 virus. Workers that have been exposed can’t carry the infection. They can safely return to work.
More importantly, we can create procedures that will help nursing homes with the COVID-19 outbreak and to be better prepared for the next upcoming flu season. Let’s do what we should have done in 2017 after hurricane Irma. We need to expand policies and procedures to deal with disasters and pandemics before they occur.