Ormond Beach nursing home Opis Coquina Center leads Florida in COVID resident cases

Nikki Ross
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Opis Coquina Center nursing home in Ormond Beach is again leading the state in new coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities, according to federal data. 

Since June 6, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported 48 residents and 13 staff members of the long-term care facility have contracted the virus. Two of the residents have died.

In 2020, Opis Coquina was the first long-term care facility in Volusia County to have a significant COVID-19 outbreak, resulting in the filing of six wrongful death lawsuits by Morgan & Morgan.

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Previous coverage:COVID cases in Florida nursing homes increase. Low vaccination rates among staff could be why

The News-Journal called Opis Coquina Center Friday afternoon and an employee, who would not disclose their name, said the facility no longer had residents positive for COVID-19. 

“They are done, they are all gone,” the employee said. “They have all recovered.” 

The Opis Coquina Center, a nursing home in Ormond Beach, has been sued by families of six residents who died after contracting the coronavirus, according to court records and attorneys.

As of Friday, Opis Coquina Center had 78 residents in its 120-bed facility. According CMS data, that means over 61% of the residents have tested positive for the virus since June 6. The employee would not comment on how the virus spread to more than half of the residents.

DeBary Health and Rehabilitation Center and Deltona Health Care, which also had significant COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020, have over the last month reported eight and two resident cases, respectively. 

Brian Lee, director of Families for Better Care which advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, said Opis Coquina Center is by far the worst outbreak in the state. 

“It looks like a repeat disaster,” Lee said. “They are far and away the worst outbreak happening at this moment.”

In April 2020, Opis Coquina Center had the most coronavirus cases in Volusia County and was the first long-term care facility to have a COVID-19 related death. 

By May 14, 16 residents had died of the virus and the center ranked fifth in the state for deaths in long-term care facilities. 

In March 2021, six families filed wrongful death lawsuits against the facility accusing Opis Coquina Center of failing to protect their loved ones from COVID infections, according to the complaints and an attorney from Morgan & Morgan.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility had a history of infection control problems that Lee said could have been the cause for the initial COVID-19 outbreak. 

Its most recent federal citation was received in July 2019, after a trail of blood and a bloody washcloth was found in a resident’s room, according to the reports. Staff could not identify where the blood came from. The resident had a cut on their foot, but there was no fresh blood on the cut or bandage. A staff member then, without washing their hands and without re-cleaning the cut, changed the bandages on the resident’s foot, documents stated.

The nursing home was also cited in November 2018 for not cleaning blood pressure cuffs between patients and in December 2016 after an employee failed to wash their hands after leaving one resident’s room and entering another resident’s room, according to inspection reports from the Agency for Health Care Administration.

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The facility has received three inspections so far in 2021, the most recent of which was at the beginning of June. None of the inspections revealed any issues. 

But since the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in the facility, AHCA hasn't inspected the facility. The agency did not respond for comment Friday afternoon as to how they are monitoring facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Long-term care COVID-19 data

AHCA stopped reporting daily COVID-19 related data on June 5, instead relying on federal agencies like CMS to keep track of the data, which is supplied by the facilities. This data tends to run two weeks behind, according to Lee. 

In a letter sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, Lee expressed his concerns with the state halting long-term care facility data and encouraged the governor to resume reporting. 

“Families for Better Care was puzzled by your decision to shut down the collection and public dissemination of COVID-19 case infection and death data for Florida’s long-term care facilities,” the letter stated. “We contend that this decision may have been premature and runs against the grain of your 'seniors first' promise to Florida’s elderly.”

Lee argues that failure to collect, analyze and publish this data leaves families in the dark and is harmful to the current administration. 

“Your communications team informed us by email on June 23, 2021, that state regulators are now relying on 'pre-pandemic regulatory activities' to ascertain this data,” the letter states. “Routine inspections are inadequate when attempting to promptly surveil COVID-19 outbreaks in facilities, especially when inspection frequency is as low as once every two years for assisted living facilities and once every nine to 15 months for nursing homes.”

Florida is currently the second-worst state for vaccinated staff, with 56.2% of nursing home workers still unvaccinated, according to CMS. 

And with the emergence of the Delta variant, Lee said it's more important than ever to monitor long-term care facilities. 

 ”COVID-19 is a direct threat to Florida's health care heroes and an indirect threat to the residents they serve. A direct threat because unvaccinated staff are much more susceptible to contracting the virus and an indirect threat to vaccinated residents who may be exposed to depleted caregiver ranks that may be crippled when a facility experiences a widespread outbreak,” the letter states. “Fewer frontline caregivers increases the likelihood of residents being abused or neglected. And unvaccinated staff, themselves, are a potential threat to more than 30% of residents who choose not to."