Miami Herald by Mary Ellen Klas & Ben Conrack
April 14, 2020
A devoted grandson learns his grandmother died alone last weekend. The family was never told she had fallen ill. A fragile mother is moved from her room so the senior home can expand its “quarantine wing.” Her daughter was told no one has tested positive for the coronavirus.
A family repeatedly asks if anyone has tested positive at the home of their grandfather only to receive cheerful texts that avoid the question and say: “We’re all doing great!”
Barred from visiting their relatives in the midst of a pandemic, people with relatives in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state say they are also being deprived of information that could reassure them that their loved ones are safe.
Kristen Knapp, spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, the trade group representing most nursing homes in Florida, said “we’re recommending and encouraging [the homes] to disclose” information to relatives of residents but that it’s “the decision of the Department of Health” to release the data to the broader public. The health department has refused to share it — or to tell the Herald the legal justification for not doing so.
“Families should know so that informed decisions can be made about care,’’ said Bea Coker. She lives in Lake City, and her father is in a local nursing home. She’s been told everyone is safe there.
“I assumed all nursing homes would want to keep the public informed,” she said.
On Tuesday, the health department reported the aggregate number of residents and staff at long-term care facilities who have tested positive for COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus: 1,179 — up 217 cases since Monday. Most of the cases are in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, but alarming hot spots have metastasized in three North Florida counties: Suwanee, Clay and Leon.
Which facilities are those?