ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — While COVID-19 has been under control in Florida’s long-term care facilities for nearly eight months since vaccinations started, many are now seeing a spike in cases.
The Department of Health is monitoring what it considers “outbreaks” of COVID-19 at 40 long-term care facilities in Orange County.
In the past, the state has released a list of where these outbreaks are happening, but state officials said that information is no longer being made public.
Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said there are more than 350 cases at those locations among staff and residents. He said three deaths related to the facilities have also been reported this week.
“The issue with nursing homes, it’s also not visitors as a whole, it’s employees. That’s our concern,” Pino said.
Pino said it’s employees who come and go each day that are bringing the virus into the facilities. And while most residents are vaccinated many employees are not.
A report just released by AARP shows that while Florida has the highest percentage of nursing homes cases in the U.S., the state has the second-lowest worker vaccination rate in the country at 45%.
Pino said while requiring the vaccine would be ideal, it’s tricky with long-term care facilities.
“There’s a multiplicity of companies, so making it mandatory by company would not have any effect because the other companies would have to do it,” Pino said.
To help with the recent spike in cases, the state is rolling out strike teams to provide monoclonal antibody treatment to infected residents.
“Folks who are at high risk for progression, severe disease, or death from COVID-19, this therapy can reduce your risk of hospitalization and death by 70%,” said Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, FDEM chief medical officer.
If caught early enough, the state says it also helps prevent any roommates at the facility from becoming infected by up to 80%.
“So if there’s six other nursing home residents, maybe none of them have tested positive yet, you can go in and offer the Regeneron to them, and that’s proven to help them avoid infection entirely,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.