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17 residents of Jacksonville nursing home died after testing positive for COVID-19

Signature HealthCARE of Jacksonville said 17 residents have died after testing positive for COVID-19. More than 100 residents and staff have tested positive.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The number of residents at a Jacksonville nursing home who have died after testing positive for COVID-19 has climbed to 17.

“It's scary. It's unsettling,” said Emily West.

Her sister, Catherine Meredith, 50, she said is among the 74 residents at Signature HealthCARE of Jacksonville who have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the nursing home’s daily recorded phone message, 35 staff have also tested positive, almost half of the cases at the facility were diagnosed in the last two weeks.

West is concerned about her sister, but because of the pandemic, she's not been allowed to visit her.

“Why is there such a high number of positives if they're tracking and checking temperatures?” West said. “I mean it's like a wildfire started in there.”

West says the nursing home notified her last week that her sister, who has been living there for more than two years after having a stroke, tested positive for COVID-19 after her three roommates were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

According to state records the facility is licensed to have 180 beds.

“It really bothers me. What is going on over there? You know, I have friends who have family members at other nursing homes about the same size as this nursing home, and they've only had two residents get sick,” West said. “What is going on over there? Why are all these people sick and dying?”

A spokeswoman for the nursing home said the majority of the 17 residents who died after testing positive for COVID-19 had been patients at partnering hospitals for a considerable amount of time and passed away at those facilities.

“The loss of any of our residents, for any reason, is devastating and we ask the community to keep the family of our residents in your thoughts and prayers,” Ann Bowdan Wilder, Communications Manager of Signature HealthCARE said.

The nursing home employed a facility-wide testing approach in early May.

“This approach allows us to immediately identify the scope of the virus in the facility and work swiftly to contain any further spread,” Wilder said.

West said because her sister can't answer her questions due to her stroke, she is left wondering if her sister is getting the care she needs.

“I think that somebody needs to get involved,” West said. “Somebody needs to step in and say, ‘Hey what's going on over here?’”

In a statement to First Coast News the nursing home said, “Signature wants to assure our residents, families, and staff that we continue to take every precaution possible and follow the strict guidelines of the CDC and other controlling government agencies which include: screening all stakeholders and residents daily for symptoms of the virus, utilizing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and masks, restricting facility visitation in accordance with federal and state guidelines, and using alternate methods of communication for families, including telehealth, social media, and the mailing of cards and letters. In this COVID-19 climate, we must continue to mandate, per government instruction, that our families continue in this restricted protocol. It is of the utmost importance for the protection of your loved one.”