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Tampa Bay nursing homes have all offered coronavirus vaccines to residents and staff

Nearly every nursing home in the state had vaccinations administered, as of Tuesday.
Residents wait to be vaccinated at Gulf Shore Care Center on Dec. 18, 2020 in Pinellas Park.
Residents wait to be vaccinated at Gulf Shore Care Center on Dec. 18, 2020 in Pinellas Park. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jan. 16

Nearly all of the state’s nursing homes had administered first-round coronavirus vaccines to their residents and staff who wanted one as of Tuesday, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

And by the end of the week, all nursing homes in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties reportedly had received vaccinations.

Almost 93 percent — 645 of the state’s 695 nursing homes — self-reported by Tuesday that they had offered doses to residents and staff, according to agency spokeswoman Tiffany Vause. The agency did not respond to emails Thursday and Friday seeking updated information.

On Dec. 11, Gov. Ron DeSantis placed nursing home residents and staff and healthcare providers at the top of the state’s vaccine priority list. But on Dec. 23, DeSantis opened up the pipeline to start vaccinating all people 65 and older before all of the facilities had received vaccines.

In the state’s Tuesday report, two of Hillsborough County’s 31 nursing homes had not reported being vaccinated. But by Friday, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman said those last two homes had been vaccinated, as well.

Overman said this week that she asked the local health department to prepare a report on the vaccine rollout. That report will include how many vaccinations have been administered in nursing homes and will be presented at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, she said.

Strike teams began to offer vaccines to Pinellas County nursing home residents and staff on Dec. 16 as part of a state pilot project and had reached all of the county’s 68 facilities by Dec. 20, said Tom Iovino, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. Overall, 68 percent of residents and 28 percent of staff accepted the vaccine, he said.

The department expected to finish offering second doses of the vaccine last week to residents vaccinated in the first wave, Iovino said, and to offer first doses to “those who may have changed their minds.”

The coronavirus has wracked nursing homes across the country. Of Florida’s 23,011 coronavirus-related deaths as of Jan. 8, 8,358 were residents of long-term care facilities, according to the Florida Department of Health.

On Thursday, the state reported that 3,388 of the 138,195 residents of Florida long-term care facilities — nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other group homes — were currently positive for the coronavirus. That number has climbed steadily since Thanksgiving, when the state implemented more generous visitation rules for nursing homes.

Coronavirus cases increased by 52 percent in Tampa Bay nursing homes from Dec. 10 to Jan. 14, according to Florida Department of Health data.

On Jan. 14, the state reported that Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas county nursing homes had a total of 263 residents testing positive, up from 172 on Dec. 10.

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