As Florida reopens, the deaths quietly keep piling up in nursing homes

Over the past week, elders living in long-term care facilities accounted for seven-in-10 Florida deaths resulting from the coronavirus, as the pandemic increasingly became a scourge of the old and frail.

Though the cumulative overall number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, the illness caused by exposure to the coronavirus, doubled this month, coronavirus deaths at nursing homes and assisted living facilities tripled. As of Saturday, 1,228 people at long-term care facilities had died from COVID-19.

“I don’t know of any place else in the country that matches this,” said Larry Polivka, executive director of the Florida State University-based Claude Pepper Center, of the seven-in-10 figure. He has studied aging and long-term care issues for decades.

“This should raise red flags about our need to know more about what is going on in these nursing homes that are producing these highest-in-the-nation percentages of fatalities, and our need to be really transparent about our efforts to respond to that and reduce the number of deaths, reduce the number of infections and keep nursing homes safe.”