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10 staff members, 4 residents test positive for COVID-19 at Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center

15 cases of coronavirus linked to Suwannee County Facility
Posted at 12:32 AM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 12:46:49-04

SUWANNEE COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — Four residents and 10 staff members at Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center have tested positive for coronavirus, officials confirm to ABC 27 News.

Suwannee County has 31 confirmed coronavirus cases in all. According to the Florida Department of Health, 19 of those cases are linked to a long-term healthcare facility.

Editor's Note: When we initially did the report on April 4, Suwannee County had 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 15 of those linked to a long-term healthcare facility. We have since updated those numbers to reflect the latest as of Monday, April 6).

ABC 27 spoke to a nurse at the Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center who tested positive for coronavirus. That nurse was one of three nurses ABC 27 spoke to who said those who have tested positive for coronavirus at the facility are not being isolated from other people.

After ABC 27's Saturday night report, Suwannee Health and Rehabilitation Center sent ABC 27 a statement on Sunday night to address those claims, stating that, "While we believe that our facility has been ahead of our peers in preparation, this disease does not follow any particular game plan."

In the statement, Raven Jackson, the administrator at the facility, confirmed that four residents at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19. All four of the residents are currently being treated in local hospitals.

She also confirmed that 10 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus. However, she said none of those staff members have been in the building since they exhibited symptoms of the virus or received a positive test result.

"They will observe the appropriate quarantine period before they are allowed to return to work," wrote Jackson in the statement. "Suwannee HR will continue performing tests as needed to identify, isolate, and control the spread of the virus."

Jackson also addressed claims that there weren't enough masks available for staff at the facility, calling them "simply untrue."

"Despite the increased pressures of the virus, we currently have an adequate supply of masks and every staff member is using them at all times. Suwannee HR has necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies and is receiving ongoing deliveries," the statement read. "We have been following, and often are ahead, of government mandated protocols."

The center also said that they have rolled out new protocols for carrying for COVID-19 positive patients including isolation wings that are ready to receive patients. They say those wings are currently empty as they have no positive residents in the building at this time.

"Following a recent state inspection of our protocols and preparation for the virus, we were commended by various health care agencies for our processes," Jackson wrote in the statement. The center said they have already restricted visitor access to the facility and have began temperature screening for every employee and essential vendor before they can come into the building.

We reached out to the department of health who directed us to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, since they are the ones that regulate these types of facilities.

The Department of Health told ABC 27, "The agency for healthcare administration regulates and licenses nursing facilities... The Department of Health continues to monitor positive cases and conducts contact tracing in efforts to mitigate the virus."

The Suwannee County Sheriff's office told ABC 27 that the Agency for Healthcare Administration was supposed to be on site Saturday to check out the facility.