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Tampa Bay nursing homes are limiting visitors. What does that mean for family?

To protect older Tampa Bay residents from coronavirus, nursing homes are tightening who can visit

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Over the course of a week, Jim DiNobile, 65, watched the protections at his father’s nursing home ramp up.

First it was a form asking about travel and symptoms. Then they started taking visitors’ temperatures. Then, on Wednesday, he wasn’t allowed in.

DiNobile’s father Lou, 94, has been at The Springs at Boca Ciega Bay, 1255 Pasadena Ave. S in Pinellas County, for several weeks. His son visits every day, often multiple times a day.

“He depends on me emotionally and mentally,” DiNobile said. “I’m concerned that you’re isolated enough in those nursing homes, now he can't even see his son.”

Still, DiNobile said he understands the reasoning. Seniors like his father are the most vulnerable to coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

The coronavirus fatality rate for people in their 80s is six times the overall fatality rate. For people in their 70s, it’s four times the overall fatality rate. Florida has the largest share of residents 70 and older in the nation.

Lou DiNobile, 94, eats at his nursing home in St. Petersburg. Visits to the home are now limited because of coronavirus
Lou DiNobile, 94, eats at his nursing home in St. Petersburg. Visits to the home are now limited because of coronavirus [ Courtesy of Jim DiNobile ]

Current CDC guidelines advise nursing homes and long term care facilities to screen visitors and limit unnecessary visits. The Florida Health Care Association, which represents 82 percent of Florida’s nursing homes, has pushed that.

Florida nursing homes have begun to follow that, and many have a question sheet at sign in that asks people where they’ve traveled, how they’re feeling and a spot to note their temperature.

But some have chosen to go beyond and implement stricter access, like The Springs and The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay.

“Active daily life continues here while we temporarily limit community visitors to only those entering for essential health-related matters,” Dean Goldman, a spokesman for The Fountains, wrote in an email.

He said family members are encouraged to stay in touch with FaceTime and phone calls. Residents have been able to participate in regular programs, like a yoga class, through video streaming.

Signature Healthcare, which runs Golfview Healthcare Center in St. Petersburg, wrote in a statement that “Limiting access means that no individual, regardless of reason, will be allowed to enter a facility, except under certain and very specific circumstances, such as end-of-life situations or when essential for a resident’s emotional well-being and care.”

Bon Secours Maria Manor has also limited visits, according to Molly Moorhead, whose 84-year-old father is at the facility. In an email, she said she visited her father on Wednesday, gave him a milkshake from Arby’s and watched videos of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly routines. Before she left she “gave him a big squeeze."

DiNobile laughed at the idea that his 94-year-old father would be able to use FaceTime. Though he says he wishes he could see him in person, he understands that the nursing home needs to protect their own.

“I’m for it, it’s just unfortunate now that we’ve been directly affected by the virus,” he said. “Even though we don’t have it, our family has been impacted.”

His biggest worry is when it will all end. DeNobile said he, along with everybody else, doesn’t know if coronavirus will go away in a few weeks or a few months.

“I don’t know the next time I’m gonna see my dad,” he said. “And that’s not a very nice thought.”

Lou DiNobile, 94, is visited by a pony at his nursing home. Visits are now limited because of coronavirus.
Lou DiNobile, 94, is visited by a pony at his nursing home. Visits are now limited because of coronavirus. [ Courtesy of Jim DiNobile ]

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

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