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Pinellas nursing home outbreak: 39 residents and 19 employees of Freedom Square test positive so far

Many residents have been evacuated from the retirement community. More testing is expected in the coming days.
The remaining 39 residents are evacuated from Freedom Square of Seminole, Friday, April 17, 2020 in Seminole. Three nursing home residents have died of the coronavirus in an outbreak that has afflicted Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community that has seen dozens of residents hospitalized because of the virus, officials said.
The remaining 39 residents are evacuated from Freedom Square of Seminole, Friday, April 17, 2020 in Seminole. Three nursing home residents have died of the coronavirus in an outbreak that has afflicted Freedom Square of Seminole, a sprawling retirement community that has seen dozens of residents hospitalized because of the virus, officials said. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 19, 2020|Updated Apr. 19, 2020

SEMINOLE — A retirement community rocked by a large outbreak of coronavirus infections released updated numbers of infections Sunday.

So far, 39 patients and residents and 19 employees of Freedom Square of Seminole have tested positive for the virus, Executive Director Michael Mason said in a statement. Three patients have died.

More testing is expected in the coming days, Mason said. So far, 124 residents and patients at 136 employees have been tested for the virus. Of the residents and patients, 56 tested negative and 29 test results are pending. Twenty-four employee have tested negative and 93 tests pending.

Related: 3 residents dead amid Pinellas nursing home coronavirus outbreak

Freedom Square operates a sprawling campus at 7800 Liberty Lane that includes memory care, assisted living, nursing and rehab and independent living facilities. There are about 700 residents.

The coronavirus outbreak was first reported in Seminole Pavilion, a nursing facility on the campus, on Wednesday. Since then, all 95 patients at Seminole Pavilion have been evacuated to area hospitals and facilities, Mason said.

Five residents from Freedom Square Rehabilitation were also transferred to the hospital after being tested for COVID-19. Three tested positive and two tested negative, Mason said Sunday.

The entire campus will undergo a deep clean.

Nurses at the facility who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Tampa Bay Times that employees feared for their safety because they lacked protective gear and disinfectant. Patient care deteriorated as employees quit and supplies dwindled, they said.

Family members said the facility was too slow to release news initially. “They’re not feeling like Freedom Square is being open or honest with them,” said April Hill, an elder law attorney who represents a client with a family member living in the campus. She said her client didn’t hear anything about the coronavirus cases until reports of the outbreak hit the news.

Related: In reversal, DeSantis discloses elder care homes with COVID-19 cases

As coronavirus cases in elder care facilities have continued to rise across the state, families and elder care advocates have pressed Gov. Ron DeSantis to release more information about the outbreaks. He had declined to share that information, citing patient privacy, but reversed that decision on Saturday and agreed to publish the names of facilities where people have tested positive. So far, 302 facilities in 45 counties have staff or residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 — that includes 24 facilities in Pinellas, four in Hillsborough and two in Pasco.

Related: Family of deceased Freedom Square patient feels confused, angry

But the new information released by the governor is still not complete, said Dave Bruns, spokesman for AARP Florida. The list lacks key indicators, like the number of staff and residents who tested positive at each facility and the number of deaths, information that could help the public understand the scale of the problem and make decisions about their loved one’s care.

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Information from previous coverage was used in this report.

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