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81 percent of Manatee Co. COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities traced to one company

Manatee County now has the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Tampa Bay.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County now has the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Tampa Bay.

The county ranks fourth in the state.

The Florida Department of Health is tracing 81 percent of those Manatee County cases to the same facility owner.

103 of Manatee County’s 127 COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities can be traced to two facilities owned by the same company, according to Manatee County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Bencie.

“We actually had to serve an involuntary order against one of the employees who knowingly went to another facility and persons became positive,” said Bencie.

According to Bencie, the company tested all residents and staff at its two Manatee County facilities. Sixty-six residents and 37 staff members tested positive.

RELATED: Another nursing home in Pinellas County reports coronavirus outbreak with 13 cases

Manatee County Commission Vice-Chair Carol Whitmore told 10Investigates it highlights the need for more testing at long-term care facilities.

“100 percent, and I think all over the state they should be doing it. This is our most vulnerable population. Unfortunately, as you know, we can’t get the kits,” said Whitmore, who is also a nurse.

The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County would not name the two facilities where 103 people tested positive.

“In order to respect the privacy of individuals, and maintain the integrity of the epidemiological investigations, it is imperative that we keep certain details regarding personal identifying information confidential,” Florida Department of Health in Manatee County Communications Director Christopher Tittel told 10Investigates in an email.

RELATED: Florida names senior care facilities with coronavirus cases

Bencie said, since visitors have been kept out of these facilities for more than a month, it narrows down who these infections are coming from.

“We need to keep an eye on the staff. They’re the ones who are bringing it in. They’re asymptomatic,” said Bencie.

The state’s list of all long-term care facilities with positive COVID-19 cases does not include the number of people infected at each facility, so 10Investigates has been trying to gather that info on our own.

Out of the eight Manatee County long term care facilities that have positive COVID-19 cases, these five won’t tell 10Investigates what their numbers are:

  • Braden River Rehabilitation Center
  • Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center
  • Bradenton Heath Care
  • Brookdale Bradenton Gardens
  • Casa Mora Rehabilitation and Extended Care

These two told us their numbers of positive cases:

  • Bay Vue Nursing and Rehab – 2 staff members
  • Westminster Point Pleasant – 1 resident

Manatee Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing Center hasn’t responded to us.

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh told 10Investigates there needs to be more transparency from nursing homes about their numbers of positive cases.

“If we know each nursing home – how many positive cases there are, then we can go in and help the other citizens in the area to do more so that it doesn’t spread and become even worse,” said Baugh.

Fourteen of Manatee County’s 33 COVID-19 deaths are directly related to nursing homes.

10Investigates looked through inspection reports for the eight Manatee County facilities listed by the state and found Manatee Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing Center was cited for infection control every year from 2016 to 2019.

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