Florida nursing home requiring masks amid rise in COVID-19 cases

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A nursing home is bringing back face masking and other pandemic-era measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This comes as a local epidemiologist tells NewsNation affiliate WFLA the data shows COVID-19 cases are on the rise both in Florida and across the country.

Doctors at the Bay Pines VA Community Living Center (CLC) said they’ve increased efforts to screen and test for the virus in hopes of preventing a bigger outbreak.

“We learned the sooner that you intervene, the sooner you implement those measures, the best result you’ll be able to contain the issue,” said Dr. Amin Elamin, the Chief of Staff for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

In response to a sudden rise in COVID-19 infections at the CLC, protective measures are back in place for residents, employees and visitors.

“You can imagine with our nursing home, our CLC, this is the most vulnerable patients we have or residents,” Dr. Elamin said. “We keep a close eye on what’s going on there.”

As of Tuesday, all staff and visitors at the CLC must wear a mask. There’s also a two-visitor limit per resident and visits are encouraged to be outside.

“We can see not only in Florida but nationally, we’re seeing a pretty dramatic uptick compared to six weeks ago,” USF epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi said.

Salemi explained the CDC is tracking the prevalence of the virus in communities through the testing of wastewater samples.

Nine Florida counties, including Hillsborough, are sharing that data, Salemi said.

“It’s not going to tell us who is infected,” he said, “but it certainly tells us if we are increasing or decreasing.”

Salemi said summer travel is one reason COVID-19 cases are increasing right now.

“We’re seeing waning immunity,” Salemi added, “either from the last booster shot people have gotten or the last time they’ve been infected, and we’re also seeing that extreme heat. And places like Florida, that’s going to drive people to do more things indoors where the spread of the virus occurs more easily.”

Salemi said data from the Department of Health and Human Services show more than 950 adults are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida. That’s up 42% from seven weeks ago.

But Salemi points out that context matters, and this time, a year ago, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state was four times higher.


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