As COVID cases spikes in Orange County, nursing homes prepare

As COVID-19 cases spike in Orange County, nursing homes are figuring out how to respond. 

The Gardens at Depugh Nursing Center in Winter Park is still following strict protocol when it comes to visitors. Anyone from the outside must wear masks, have a health screening, and have temperatures taken before entering. 

"Really the staff have to be more vigilant," said administrator Liz Barton. "They’re the ones going out into the community, they’re the ones running into other people, they’re the ones, who, if they’re vaccinated can go out without masks."

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Vaccinating nursing home staff has proven to be challenging for facilities across the state.

 According to a new AARP report, the COVID vaccination rate among nursing home workers in Florida is the second-lowest in the country; only above Louisiana. The organization says less than 42% of nursing home staff in Florida had been fully vaccinated by June – compared to the national average of about 56%.

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Richard Baldwin, president of the board of directors at the Gardens at Depugh says their best defense was paying their employees to get the shot.

"We were around 35/40% vaccinated and we couldn’t move the needle. So we started a compensation program and we gave them a little money with their first shot and a big check with their second shot and it bumped us way over 80%," he said.