Florida’s elder-care facilities buckle as virus deaths climb

Daily fatality counts from elder-care facilities in Florida climbed to their highest level so far in the past week, with the seven-day average reaching 56 on Monday, about triple the average a month ago, according to an analysis of state data by The Wall Street Journal. Total long-term care deaths rose to 3,155 on Monday, representing about 42% of the state’s 7,526 fatalities overall, in line with the national trend. Confirmed cases among long-term care residents have plateaued in recent days.

In June, the state began requiring facilities to test staff every two weeks. But public-health specialists say that unless the centers test staff, vendors and others for the virus every time they arrive, there is no way to fully protect the elderly residents. Staff members may become infected at home but not show symptoms, and then come in close contact with residents

About one in five residents in Florida is a senior citizen—the highest proportion in the U.S. along with Maine. Florida initially appeared to dodge the worst of the pandemic. Then new infections began soaring in June, peaking in mid-July. Of 62 counties recently identified as viral “hot spots” by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 24 are in Florida, including those containing Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando.