A third veteran dies at VA nursing home in Florida, but coronavirus spread slows

By JAY WEAVER | Miami Herald | Published: April 23, 2020

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MIAMI (Tribune News Service) — A third military veteran who was diagnosed with the conoravirus at a state VA nursing home in Pembroke Pines has died in a local hospital, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

But the recent outbreak of 13 positive COVID-19 cases at the Alexander Nininger State Veterans’ Nursing Home has “stabilized” over the past week, agency spokesman Steve Murray said Wednesday.

Murray said the slowing of the coronavirus spread at the facility was largely “due to our collective efforts on social isolation, use of [person protective equipment] for residents and staff, and an increased cleaning protocol throughout the building.”

Murray said the third deceased veteran was suffering from many chronic ailments at the Pembroke Pines nursing home before becoming infected with the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease. “But his passing during this pandemic is still a great loss to the Nininger family,” he said.

The state VA’s network of six other nursing homes has been spared from coronavirus infection and related deaths like the Nininger facility in Pembroke Pines, he said.

Murray said coronavirus testing has focused on the area of the nursing home where residents have tested positive since the first diagnoses in mid-March. He said the COVID-19 tests are being done on all patients and staff employees. In total, there are 108 residents and 145 staff at the Pembroke Pines nursing home.

All state-licensed nursing homes across Florida have acutely worried health officials and the public because they are considered potential lethal incubators for aging and ailing residents.

Meanwhile, the federal VA reported more than 235 COVID-19 cases among military veterans in Florida, including 90 in Miami and about 65 in Orlando, the two hardest-hit areas, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records released early Thursday.

There have been at least 11 veterans’ deaths at federal VA facilities in Florida, including five at the Miami VA hospital, three at the Tampa VA facility and two at the West Palm Beach VA facility, according to records.

In addition, at least 35 Miami VA staff employees have become infected with the coronavirus, representing just over one percent of roughly 3,000 healthcare and other workers at the hospital, a VA spokeswoman said.

But several Miami VA staff employees have told the Miami Herald that there is still a shortage of N95 masks and that only healthcare workers dealing directly with COVID-19 veterans at the downtown hospital are wearing them. All other staff must wear surgical masks, which are not as effective.

The Miami VA’s director recently sent out an email saying that the 372-bed hospitals is coming up with a plan to sterilize N95 masks so they can be reused by healthcare workers over a longer period of time. The email, shared with the Miami Herald, did not specify when or how the plan would be implemented.

©2020 Miami Herald

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