PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — A new outbreak at a Pinellas County elderly care facility has increased the call for more wide spread testing, even when signs of the virus aren’t there.

What You Need To Know

  • 21 additional patients test positive for coronavirus at Gulf Shore Care Center in Pinellas Park 
  • Additional testing is being called for at facility
  • Public health expert says testing of staff also important
  • More Pinellas County stories

Twenty-one additional residents at Gulf Shore Care Center in Pinellas Park who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred to area hospitals Wednesday, according to an email sent to county commissioners.

Pinellas County EMS and Fire Director Craig Hare says those patients are all asymptomatic and in stable condition.

On Monday, five patients from the center were hospitalized after testing positive for the virus. Officials are working to get additional testing at the facility.

Also this week, 10 patients and two staff members from the St. Petersburg Nursing and Rahab facility tested positive. They have all been transferred out of that Atwood Avenue facility as officials work to conduct additional testing.

On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants people to be able to visit loved ones again soon at nursing homes.

"We've now been two months where visitors have not been allowed at these facilities," he said. "My view has been I want to get to yes on that. I just want to be able to know that we have procedures in place that if someone goes to visit their mother, that two weeks later we aren't going to have 50 infections at a nursing home or long term care facility."

Health officials continue to stress that testing remains key to make visits at nursing homes possible and in the continued reopening of the state.

Many facilities left wondering what's next

Back in April, DeSantis announced the National Guard would ramp up testing at elder care facilities. But new numbers show those teams have only made it to about 6 percent of the state’s long-term care facilities, where symptoms were evident.

Last week, DeSantis unveiled a mobile testing lab. But the website keeping track of its progress shows it’s in South Florida and again, the focus is on facilities where symptoms of the virus are present.

Bob Gibson, Vice President of United Healthcare Workers East, said that approach to testing in long-term care facilities is a real problem.

“You can be Covid positive and not have symptoms,” Gibson said.  “So we don’t know who is walking around that is Covid positive at this point.”

Gibson added the state’s approach has left many facilities trying to figure out what to do next, and the path to testing for facilities without signs of the virus isn’t clear.

“That’s part of the problem. Everybody should know,” Gibson said. “You shouldn’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops.” 

The state indicated earlier this week it is working on a registration process. However, no word yet on how soon that would be rolled out.

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