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Tampa, Florida

What Tampa and St. Petersburg Families Need to Know About COVID-19 and Nursing Home Abuse

Florida nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys

Our experienced Tampa nursing home abuse lawyers explain what you need to know 

The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has led to one staggering headline after another. But last week brought what might be the most shocking realization. An estimated one-third of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths have affected nursing home residents or workers, according to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Specifically, at least 28,100 nursing home residents and workers have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the Coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

Florida nursing homes have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. Statewide, 42 percent of all COVID-19 deaths have involved nursing home residents and workers, The New York Times reported. And the number of new cases and deaths in Florida continue to increase dramatically each day.

That’s why it’s critical that families take precautions to protect loved ones living in nursing homes in Florida. At Armando Personal Injury Law, our Tampa nursing home abuse attorneys have met with countless concerned families in Tampa, St. Petersburg and other nearby Florida communities. Some families suspect nursing home abuse. Others are having trouble getting their family member’s elderly care facility to return their calls. All of these families are frustrated that they can’t physically visit their loved ones. That’s where we come in and help do whatever we can to ensure their safety.

In a situation with more questions than answers, we’re here to help you navigate the shifting terrain. And that starts with understanding your legal rights and how they relate to nursing home abuse and neglect cases.

How common is nursing home abuse and neglect?

Nursing home abuse and neglect is more common than many people might realize. Consider these startling figures:

  • 74 percent increase in reported nursing home abuse in Florida between 2011 and 2015.
  • 10 percent of elderly adults have experienced abuse of some kind.
  • 96 percent of elderly abuse cases are not known by relevant agencies charged with protecting older adults.

FAQ about COVID-19 and nursing home abuse

Do you have the legal right to visit your family member at a nursing home during COVID-19? When will nursing homes in Florida reopen? If you have a family member in a Tampa senior care facility, here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 crisis in our region and what you can do to ensure your loved one’s safety, even during social distancing.

Which Tampa and St. Petersburg nursing homes have confirmed cases of COVID-19?

In Florida, long-term care residents and staff account for more than 40 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, according to the Tampa Bay Times. And Tampa is far from immune to the crisis. Four of the state’s five nursing homes with the highest COVID-19 death tolls are located in Pinellas, Manatee or Polk counties, according to WUSF News. Here’s the latest on the Tampa region’s senior care facilities and COVID-19.

  • Gulf Shore Care Center: As of May 13, there were 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Pinellas Park nursing home, with 21 residents evacuated.
  • St. Petersburg Nursing and Rehabilitation CenterTen residents with COVID-19 were evacuated from the Pinellas Park center this week. The center had 43 confirmed cases as of May 21.
  • The Bristol at Tampa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center: As of May 7, the center had 73 confirmed cases affecting 57 residents and 16 staff members.
  • Community Convalescent Center in Hillsborough County: The latest reporting confirms 85 COVID-19 cases, with 68 residents and 17 staffers testing positive.
  • Tarpon Point Nursing and Rehabilitation Center: Officials with the Florida Department of Health have confirmed an outbreak at the facility, where the number of cases stands at 15 and is currently multiplying.
  • Freedom Square of SeminoleAt least 30 residents and one staff member have died from COVID-19 at the facility, which is reported to have one of the worst COVID-19 death tolls in the state.
  • Community Convalescent Center: At the Plant City facility, also known as Community Care Center, 56 residents and 17 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of May 4.

Nursing home fatalities continue to rise

As Florida continues to grapple with the Coronavirus – with more than 77,000 cases and 2,937 deaths as of June 16 according to The New York Times – COVID-19 nursing home fatalities continue to rise at an alarming rate.

But with restrictions to physically visiting these facilities, and strong lobbying for these facilities’ sovereign immunity, getting a grasp of the full picture is easier said than done. The information we do know is coming mostly from concerned nursing home staff and families – making it all the more important to know, and exercise, your legal rights.

Do I have a legal right to visit my loved one at a Florida nursing home during COVID-19?

The short answer, no. Under social distancing guidelines, you do not have the legal right to visit your loved one at a nursing home or senior care facility. However, there are many things you can do to protect your mother, father and other elderly family members from nursing home abuse, even during COVID-19.

The first step is having a daily video call with your loved one. Next, get a copy of your family member’s weekly nursing notes. These notes could contain any “red flags” indicating there’s a problem. You can read more about our advice on our web page devoted to how to protect your loved ones from nursing home abuse and neglect.

Want more advice for protecting your loved ones from nursing home abuse during COVID-19? We created this free guide, complete with a checklist, to help you exercise your rights.

My family member’s senior care facility won’t return my calls. What can I do?

You might not be able to visit your loved one at their Florida nursing home. But you can communicate regularly with your family member and facility staff. If your senior care facility isn’t returning your calls, contact Armando Personal Injury Law. We can help. We can send a letter on your behalf within 24 hours to demand communication from the nursing home, free of charge. All you have to do is reach out to us.

Can I get a Power of Attorney (POA) remotely during COVID-19?

Yes, you can obtain a Power of Attorney (POA)  remotely with the assistance of an attorney. It’s important to have a POA in order to discuss your loved one’s health matters with a long-term care facility. Without a POA, you cannot discuss such matters with them. The good news is that you can obtain a POA for your family member even during social distancing guidelines through a video call and the help of a lawyer. Contact us if you need assistance securing a POA.

Where do nursing homes fall in Florida’s plan to reopen?

In early May, Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled a 3 Phase plan to reopen Florida. The proposal prohibits visits to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family-care homes, long-term care facilities and adult group homes. The governor’s proposal states that these restrictions are not a component of the phased-in reopening plan. This language opens the door to even more confusion.

Phase 1, which began May 4, includes the limited opening of restaurants and some non-essential stores. Groups of 10 people or more are advised not to gather during this phase.

Phase 2, which began June 5, allows bars, movie theaters, tattoo parlors and other businesses to reopen. However, the implementation of phase 2 has also coincided with a recent spike in the number of Coronavirus cases in Florida in June. On June 14, the Florida Department of Public Health reported two straight days in a row of more than 2,000 daily new Coronavirus cases, including a state record of 2,581 positive test results on June 13, according to ABC News.

No timeline for phases 3, or for visitation to nursing homes, has been announced.

What’s the latest on the Florida Health Care Association’s request for immunity?

If you’ve been following the crisis hitting Florida’s nursing homes, you’ve likely heard about the Florida Health Care Association’s bold request – sovereign immunity for the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how the FHCA, the state’s largest advocacy group for long-term health care workers, framed its request in a letter sent to the Governor’s Office: “immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing health care services.”
The governor’s office has not responded to the FHCA’s letter.

What is the current state of COVID-19 testing in Florida’s nursing homes?

Statewide, Florida is home to nearly 3,800 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities with more than 150,000 residents. Governor DeSantis identified these residents as the state’s most vulnerable population. However, the most recent records released by the state show that only 13,000 patients at 150 long-term facilities have been tested in the last 30 days.

Take the next step to protect your elderly loved ones during COVID-19. Contact us

The novel coronavirus has transformed daily life for all of us. There are few people more vulnerable than our elderly parents, grandparents and other family members living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida. Protect your loved ones from nursing home abuse. Contact our law firm and scheduled your free case evaluation. Our experienced, Tampa nursing home abuse attorneys can answer your questions, evaluate your potential case and explain your legal options. Call (813) 579-6768. We’re based in Tampa and we treat our clients like family.
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