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Do you work, live, or know someone in a nursing home or assisted living facility dealing with a coronavirus outbreak?

36 COVID-19 cases are in Florida’s long-term care facilities — help us tell the story
The 180-bed Atria Willow Wood appears to be the hardest-hit assisted living facility so far by the coronavirus. [Miami Herald]

Stories about the coronavirus pandemic are free to read as a public service at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to receive updates weekday mornings. If this coverage is important to you, consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Tampa Bay Times at tampabay.com/subscribe.

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Thirty-six residents of long-term care facilities in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Three have died.

Do you know where? Help Tampa Bay Times reporters tell the story.

The state has identified only the counties where the infections have occurred, including 14 cases in Duval County, 14 in Broward County, four in Baker County, and one each in Orange, Bradford, Clay and Citrus counties.

Three people have died at Atria Willow Wood, a Ft. Lauderdale assisted living facility, and at least seven other residents of the facility tested positive for the virus and were hospitalized. Seven cases have been reported at Camellia at Deerwood, a Jacksonville senior living facility.

But state officials are refusing to identify most facilities where COVID-19 cases have been detected, citing privacy concerns. Gov. Ron DeSantis identified Atria Willow Wood, he said, because the facility was “negligent” and did not properly screen construction workers, cooks and other staff. (Atria Willow Wood said it had adhered to state and local guidelines.)

Protecting nursing homes and assisted living facilities from the spread of COVID-19 is an urgent concern because the elderly have been more susceptible to fatal consequences. More than 1 million Florida residents are 80 and older, the population most at-risk from coronavirus. The state has 697 licensed nursing homes and 3,094 licensed assisted living facilities.

The coronavirus can spread quickly in these centers, where vulnerable residents live in close quarters, overseen by staff who are constantly on the move. A coronavirus outbreak that began in a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash, in mid-February spread quickly through the facility and has been linked to 37 deaths.

In recent weeks, long-term care centers in Florida have scrambled to lockdown their facilities to visitors and institute new protocols to prevent infections. Group activities have been canceled. Employees are required to wear masks at all times. Most have their temperatures taken when they walk in the door. But staffing shortages and lack of supplies still pose challenges.

Times journalists need more information to fully report on how these cases are being handled and hold officials and policymakers accountable.

Do you know anything about these cases? If you work or live in a facility with a coronavirus case or know someone who does, please contact Kavitha Surana at 646-463-1817 or ksurana@tampabay.com, Leonora LaPeter Anton at 727-433-1446 or llapeter@tampabay.com or fill out the form below to help us report:

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