As the coronavirus death toll continues to rise nationwide Tuesday, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Central Florida are preparing for a worst-case scenario.
Workers at nursing homes across Central Florida said they received a statewide directive Monday urging nursing homes and residential healthcare facilities to take precautions immediately to keep employees and residents safe from the virus.
According to the World Health Organization, death rates from the virus for people age 80 or older could be 10 times higher than the overall population. Persons with pre-existing medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, appear to develop serious illness more often than others, according to WHO.
At least four deaths nationwide have been tied to nursing homes, reports the Washington Post. A third case of the coronavirus was reported Tuesday in Florida, health officials said.
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“It’s always being ready, it’s always being prepared,” said Jennifer Brown, who is a registered nurse administrator at Alabama Oaks Assisted Living Facility in Winter Park.
"It's a good reminder to be prepared and to have what is necessary and what's needed on hand."
Brown said her facility is taking precautions.
"We have our signs posted at each of our communities, and we also have the hand gel at the front door to make sure that all visitors do take those precautionary measures," said Brown. "We have standard face masks, gowns, gloves, things like that if it ever became an issue or a pandemic."
Brown said she appreciates the directive from Tallahassee to make sure her residents and employees are safe.
“It’s an elderly environment, a communal environment, and I think it’s a lot of people that come in and out of facilities,” Brown said.
The Westminister Towers in Orlando sent News 6 the following statement.
Westminster Communities of Florida is actively monitoring the spread of COVID-19. The health and wellbeing of our residents and staff is our first priority. Therefore, we are taking a variety of precautionary measures to ensure their safety.
We are implementing a variety of preventive measures and recommended practices, consistent with Governor DeSantis’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency, the Centers of Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health. For example:
- We are requesting that any residents or their family members who have traveled in the last two weeks, or plan to do so in the near future, notify the executive director of the community.
- We are temporarily discontinuing planned large group activities and visits by volunteers and vendors.
- We will be providing services like meal delivery and grocery shopping to residents who wish to avoid potential sources of exposure.
- We are placing hand sanitizer stations with alcohol-based sanitizer at appropriate locations throughout the community, and reinforcing the importance of frequent hand-washing.
- We are posting signs throughout the community warning anyone with symptoms of illness not to enter the community. If we become aware of visitors who have symptoms, we will require that they leave.
Many of these procedures are standard practice in the event of an influenza outbreak.
Westminster Communities of Florida will continue to monitor developments and follow the recommendations of the CDC and the DOH as appropriate.