National Guard aiding Seminole nursing facility as death toll mounts

According to reports from the District Six Medical Examiner’s office, 12 residents of Freedom Square of Seminole, above, and four from St. Mark Village in Palm Harbor have now died.

SEMINOLE — The death toll at two Pinellas County nursing facilities beleaguered by outbreaks of the novel coronavirus continues to mount.

According to reports from the District Six Medical Examiner’s office, 12 residents of Freedom Square of Seminole and four from St. Mark Village in Palm Harbor have now died.

Michael Mason, executive director of Freedom Square of Seminole, wrote in an email to Tampa Bay Newspapers on Monday afternoon that 10 residents died. However, medical examiner's records show that four had died this past weekend alone, including a 78-year-old woman April 24, a 94-year-old woman and a 102-year-old woman April 25, and a 98-year-old woman April 27. The additional deaths brought the total to 12.

“We’re deeply saddened by these losses, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones and all those effected during this challenging time,” Mason wrote in a statement April 25.

The outbreak had also spread to other buildings on Freedom Square's large campus, according to Mason.

On April 25, he said 10 residents of the “Rehabilitation & Health Center” and one resident of the “Assisted Living & Memory Care” facility had contracted the disease. He said there were no positive cases on the campus’s independent living facility.

On April 27, he said that those who tested positive were "transferred to area hospitals per physician orders." Therefore, there were no residents with COVID-19 currently at any of the three buildings.

He added that 36 employees had tested positive, 283 were negative, and 274 tests were pending.

On April 21, Mason said a total of 54 residents and patients had tested positive at the building at the source of the outbreak, Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation. In response to the rapid spread of the disease, officials evacuated at least 95 patients of the building April 17 to area hospitals and facilities.

Mason said the National Guard arrived April 24 to assist with employee testing.

“We are appreciative of their support and this additional resource,” he wrote.

In an email to Tampa Bay Newspapers, officials from the Florida State Emergency Operations Center said that when the Department of Health works to provide testing services at a long-term care facility, the National Guard team and DOH coordinate with the facility to provide the testing services.

“When a Florida National Guard team provides testing services at a long-term care facility, testing is available for all staff members and for patients with symptoms of COVID-19,” the statement said. “To date, the Florida National Guard has visited more than 33 facilities and tested more than 5,500 individuals in long-term care facilities.”

The first Freedom Square resident tested positive April 9, and the first to die as a result of the coronavirus was a 74-year-old man on April 11.

Freedom Square isn’t the only elder care facility battling an outbreak.

The National Guard has also been called upon to help test employees and residents of St. Mark Village, where four residents have now died.

According to medical examiner's reports, a 95-year-old man died April 23, a 93-year-old woman and an 87-year-old man died April 24, and a 97-year-old man died April 25.

A report from the Florida Department of Health states that, as of April 26, the facility has had 23 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 transferred to other facilities. Also 10 employees have tested positive.

According to the Department of Health, 21 long-term care facilities in Pinellas County have or have had patients with the coronavirus. They are:

Bay Tree Center

Carrington Place of St. Pete

Consulate Health Care of St Petersburg

Freedom Square Rehabilitation & Nursing Services

Highland Pines Rehabilitation Center

The Inn at Freedom Square

The Inn at Lake Seminole Square

Lakeside Oaks Care Center

ManorCare Health Services Dunedin

Masonic Home of Florida (nursing home and assisted-living facilities)

Morton Plant Rehabilitation Center

Palm Garden of Pinellas

Palm Garden of Largo

Patrick Manor Inc

Pinellas Point Nursing and Rehab Center

Regal Palms

Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation & Nursing Services

South Heritage Health & Rehabilitation Center

St. Mark Village

Tierra Pines Center

TBN staff writer Suzette Porter contributed to this report.