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Pinellas long-term care facilities lose five more to COVID-19

More than half of coronavirus-related deaths in Pinellas County are residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Correction: There are no COVID-19 cases or deaths reported at Royal Oaks at 1833 Seminole Boulevard in Pinellas County. There are four deaths at Royal Oaks Nursing Center at 37300 Royal Oak Lane in Pasco County. An earlier version of this story was incorrect on the location and the total deaths in Pinellas County connected to long-term care centers. This story was updated on May 10.

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Five more residents of Pinellas County long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to medical examiner reports released Thursday.

That brings the total number of coronavirus fatalities in Pinellas nursing homes and assisted living facilities to 34, or more than half of the 57 virus-related deaths in the county.

Pinellas’ long-term care infections and deaths aligns with the grim situation facing the rest of Florida. Residents and staffers of long-term care now account for at least 534 of the state’s death toll — more than a third of those who have lost their lives to the coronavirus in Florida.

Related: State’s COVID-19 testing policy an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for residents of elder homes

Four deaths from the records released Thursday were residents of Freedom Square retirement community in Seminole at 7800 Liberty Lane. The facility has been dealing with a major COVID-19 outbreak that so far has infected 104 staffers and residents, killing 23. Most of the infections came from the Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation nursing home on Freedom Square’s campus.

Harry Nash, 75, was transported to Largo Medical Center on April 13 for shortness of breath, cough and fever, according to his death report. He tested positive for COVID-19 on April 14. He was talking at first, the report said, but soon had to be intubated and eventually fell ill with pneumonia. He was extubated on Monday but remained non-verbal. His health steadily declined and he died on Tuesday.

Beverly Dikman, 86, tested positive for COVID-19 while still at Freedom Square nursing home on April 14 and was transported to Morton Plant Hospital with shortness of breath and a 102-degree fever. She died on May 5.

Louise Johnson, 79, was transported to Largo Medical Center for acute bronchitis on April 14. She tested positive for COVID-19 on April 15, and again on April 24. Her health declined and on April 30 she was transferred to Suncoast Hospice Care with acute bronchitis. She died Tuesday.

Constance Bentler, 85, was transferred to Northside Hospital on April 17 for an altered mental status and was not suffering any flu-like symptoms. She was negative for COVID-19 when tested on April 17 and April 20, according to her death report. But on April 30, she was tested for the virus again and this time tested positive. She died at the hospital on May 2.

One of the deaths reported Thursday was a resident of Patrick Manor Assisted Living Facility at 896 73rd Ave. N in St. Petersburg. Genyte Dirse, 86, was taken to the hospital for diarrhea on April 27. She had a fever of 103 degrees and tested positive for COVID-19 that day. She died in the hospital on May 5.

Twelve residents and one staff member at Patrick Manor have tested positive for the virus, according to state data released Sunday.

Another center of coronavirus infections in Pinellas is St. Mark Village, a nursing home in Palm Harbor, where 28 residents and 11 staffers tested positive for the virus. Nine residents have died.

Four residents of Royal Oaks Nursing Center at 37300 Royal Oak Lane in Pasco County have died of COVID-19. A resident of Bardmoor Oaks Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center at 9035 Bryan Dairy Road also died after testing positive for the virus.

Information about COVID-19 deaths has become harder to track in Florida. Last month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that local medical examiners were reporting 10 percent more COVID-19 deaths than the state had been tracking. Many counties stopped releasing medical examiner reports earlier this month at the request of state officials, who said they needed to be reviewed and possibly redacted.

State officials appeared to reverse course on Wednesday and released the list of coronavirus deaths being compiled by local medical examiners. But the document was heavily redacted to remove the cause of death and description of each case.

In Tampa Bay, it is easier to track how many infected people are dying in Pinellas’ long-term care facilities because the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office is releasing its death investigations upon request from the Tampa Bay Times. Hillsborough’s medical examiner is providing the Times with a spreadsheet of COVID-19 deaths — but it does not list who were residents of that county’s long-term care facilities.

Hillsborough recently saw two of its nursing homes suffer major outbreaks where a total of 141 residents and staffers were infected.

Related: Florida released a list of coronavirus deaths. But key information is blacked out

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