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20 residents test positive, two die, at Rosewood Manor


Twenty residents have tested positive for COVID-19, including two who died, at Rosewood Manor, a 50-bed assisted living facility near downtown Vero.

The small, locally owned facility is in the throes of COVID-19 like no other facility in the county, with twice the coronavirus cases of HarborChase, where five residents died in April.

Like HarborChase, the outbreak at Rosewood Manor began in the memory care wing. Unlike HarborChase, Rosewood Manor thought it had the advantage of mass testing before staff had any indication COVID-19 was in the facility.

The state health department came through May 28 and tested everyone, including staff, around 70 people.  Yet the status of the residents in Rosewood Manor is still in limbo because the results from that testing – done more than a month ago – have not all come back. Nor have all the results come back from a repeat mass testing in June.

And because most of the residents who tested positive are asymptomatic, the staff can’t tell who is sick any more than they can imagine results that haven’t come in.

As a result, it’s been nearly impossible to know who to isolate, and who to wear personal protective equipment around.

“We can’t get our arms around it. We’re flying blind,” said an anguished Don Wright, the owner of Rosewood Manor, who has been trying to manage the outbreak without knowing whether residents have it or not.

“We’ve been crushed by this thing. But I will look you in the eye and tell you any day of the week: This could have been avoided.”

Wright invested in Rosewood Manor in 2006 and now owns it fully, along with other senior living facilities in Vero Beach and elsewhere. Chairman of the board of Senior Resource Association, he owns a marketing company as well. He says the local health department has been “very supportive, and we are grateful.”

So has the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA. “They know [the delay in getting results] is unacceptable and this entire situation could have been avoided. We follow all agency protocols.”

But because results have taken so long to come back, that much-touted, long-delayed mass testing by the state was essentially useless. Wright says they only got about 20 results back – 17 days later. Of those, two were positive. The other 18 positive results, as well as two staff members, showed up in subsequent testing in mid-June – and even those results are not all in, Wright said.

Extreme delays have happened elsewhere. On May 24, the regional health department tested all residents and staff at the Isles of Vero, which at the time had one positive resident who had been tested at the hospital. Despite that positive in the building, the facility has never received results in writing from the state or the lab, though they were assured by phone the results were negative – and given an incorrect total of tests.

At Indian River Estates, 1,285 residents and staff were tested by the community’s nurse practitioner, and swabs were sent to a state-recommended lab, American Health Associates. Two weeks later, results started trickling in, with asymptomatic positives eventually totaling 24 before so much time had elapsed that the community called the lab and told them not to send any more. In more than three weeks, they received only 75 percent of the test results, a spokesman said.

Indian River Estates has since tested the entire community again.

Only a handful have come up positive, causing them to question the validity of the first round of testing.

Last week, a death showed up on the state COVID-19 chart at Oakbridge Terrace, the assisted living component of Indian River Estates. But officials at the community say no such death occurred. After our third inquiry, health department spokeswoman Stacy Brock emailed  back a link to the state chart in question, which still included the Oakbridge Terrace death. She added this: “Please note that this information is provisional and subject to change.”

As of last Friday, the county’s health department was reporting that eight of the county’s 16 covid-19 related deaths were in long-term care. That leaves one death unaccounted for, with five deaths reported at HarborChase and two deaths reported at Rosewood Manor.

The first of those deaths involves another testing mystery. According to Wright, the day after mass testing at Rosewood Manor, a resident fell and broke her hip. At Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, where she was taken for surgery, she was given a COVID-19 test that turned up positive. On that news, the Department of Health expedited her results from testing the previous day, and that test came back negative. Nevertheless, her death is listed on the medical examiner’s report as COVID-19 positive.

On June 19, the day of the second COVID-19 death at Rosewood Manor, the local health department came in and tested everyone again. Most – but not all – of those results are in. So far most have been negative. Of those surviving COVID-19 residents who tested positive, 10 remain in isolation at Rosewood. The other eight have been moved to other facilities.

“We are hopeful they will be back soon,” Wright said. “They all want to come back, their families want them back and we want them back.

“Every family member of every resident has been so supportive and can’t wait until they get their parent back in our community. It’s really heartfelt and to me that’s what keeps us going,” Wright said. “We’re in this business because we have compassion for seniors. You can’t work for me if you don’t have compassion for seniors.”

As for the future of testing in long-term care facilities, a new order mandating staff be tested bi-weekly was supposed to go into effect June 26. It didn’t, and has now been pushed up to July 7.

 A spokeswoman for Florida Senior Living Association said communities were supposed to have all staff tested between June 15 and July 7, when the bi-weekly testing would begin.

“Most if not all of our members have already started testing to meet that requirement,” said spokeswoman Sandi Poreda.

“Many of them were already testing on a regular basis without the state mandate.”
At other facilities around the county, Pelican Landing, a Sebastian assisted living facility that had been spared any COVID-19 positives in two mass testings, ended up finding four of its staff were infected last week. And in Vero, Sea Breeze Rehab and Nursing Center uncovered two positive staff as well. Green Gables added one positive resident to the one staffer who earlier was found to have the virus. The chart shows that the positive resident has transferred out of the facility.