Increased COVID-19 testing continues in South Central Florida, and more cases have shown up in lake area nursing homes.
On April 24, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that 50 state “strike teams” had started traveling the state to test all of the long-term care facilities. Last week, following threats of lawsuits by media, the Florida Department of Health began releasing more information about COVID-19 positive cases in nursing homes and COVID-19 related deaths.
In his May 5 press conference, Gov. DeSantis said he encourages long-term care facilities to transfer COVID-19 positive patients who have symptoms to hospitals where they can be more effectively quarantined and treated.
According to the FDOH data released as of May 5:
• Okeechobee County had 17 COVID-19 positive cases ranging in age from 6 to 84. The county had 855 total tests, with 837 negative for a positivity rate of 2 percent. Five county residents and one non-Florida resident (who was tested in Okeechobee County) have been hospitalized. Okeechobee Health Care Facility had on resident and a total of three staff members who tested positive, as of the most recent update of the FDOH report for long-term care facilities. The total number reported on the state dashboard jumped by more than 400 since the weekend, primarily due to the test results for the 163 OHCF patients and 231 OHCF staff.
• Glades County had six positive cases with three hospitalizations and one death. A total of 82 have been tested with 76 negative, for 7.3 percent positive. Cases range in age from 30 to 89.
• Hendry County had 115 positive cases out of 836 tests for 13.8 percent positive. Of those tested, 720 were negative and one result pending. The age range for positive cases is 2 to 101. There have been two COVID-19 related deaths at Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitative Center in LaBelle, according to the FDOH report.
Oakbrook currently had nine current patients who tested positive, three patients who tested positive who have been transferred to another facility and five staff members who tested positive. Clewiston Nursing and Rehabilitative Center had five patients who are currently positive, 10 patients who tested positive and were transferred, and 14 staff members who tested positive. Zip code 33440 (Clewiston) had 90 cases; zip code 33935 (LaBelle) had 25 cases.
According to Clewiston City Manager Randy Martin, “the county’s proximity to Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties continues to adversely influence Hendry County case totals. Specifically, the GEO detention facility located in South Bay has been a contributor locally as a number of cases are linked to Hendry County residents employed at that facility.”
• Palm Beach County had 3,390 positive cases out of 35,059 tested for 9.7 percent positive. COVID-19 positive cases range in age from 0 to 104. Zip code 33430 (Belle Glade) has 164 cases; zip code 33493 (South Bay) has 32 cases; zip code 33476 (Pahokee) has 38 cases. Glades Health Care Center in Pahokee had no patients who are currently positive, two who tested positive and were transferred and two staff members who tested positive.
Individuals can be any age, and need not be symptomatic to be registered and tested, but they must call the Health Care District’s Testing Hotline, 561-642-1000, to be scheduled in advance for testing. Patients who do not have a personal vehicle or use public bus transportation must also have an appointment. Since March, the Health Care District has tested 1,238 patients at the Belle Glade clinic site.
According to the Palm Beach County Health Care District, residents of surrounding counties may be tested at this site, but they must make an appointment in advance.