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Coronavirus spreading through elderly facilities in Palm Beach County, Treasure Coast

Testing to be conducted at nursing homes
Posted at 4:44 PM, Apr 14, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The CDC reports more than 4,000 residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities have died from the coronavirus.

Numbers show its spreading through these facilities in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

MORE: Latest news on the coroanvirus

Contact 5 took a look at what's being done to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our area.

Thousands of people have been tested for the coronavirus at outdoor drive-through sites. Now, thousands more will be tested behind closed doors at facilities housing the elderly.

"These facilities are extremely vulnerable because everybody's living in such close quarters," said Jeff Johnson of AARP Florida.

Johnson said nursing homes and assisted living facilities have struggled to stay free of the coronavirus.

"Once the virus gets inside the facility, it's very hard to contain,"said Johnson.

"What we've found in a lot of these long-term facilities is the spread is more significant among the staff," said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

To fight the spread in elder care facilities, DeSantis created Rapid Emergency Support Teams (REST).

The teams are made up of health care professionals who will head to places where staffers or residents tested positive for COVID-19.

Contact 5 obtained numbers from the state showing 88 cases at these facilities in Palm Beach County.

Along the Treasure Coast:

  • 10 cases in Martin County
  • 30 in St. Lucie County
  • 5 in Indian River County

Contact 5 reached out health officials in these counties, but none would say if the governor's REST teams investigated or started testing residents and staffers.

"Testing remains an effective tool to identifying an outbreak early," said DeSantis.

"The cases are spreading. I don't think it's because we don't know what to do. I think it's because right now it's lacking resources. It's lacking tests," said Johnson.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, many facilities stopped residents from gathering in common areas. Some took the temperatures of workers and residents daily.

Most even stopped family members from visiting, as the state and nursing homes step up their fight to help those who are hardest to protect from the coronavirus.