Highlands Lake Center in south Lakeland is associated with 18 of Polk County’s 33 COVID-19, a new report from the Florida Department of Health confirms. Two other nursing homes — Consulate Health Care of Lakeland and Brandywyne Health Care Center in Winter Haven — have had one death each, the report said.

Two more Polk residents have died of the disease, according to today’s DOH update. One of them was a long-term-care resident, but it won’t be known which facility might be involved until a new report on long-term-care facility deaths comes out a week from now.

So far, 21 of Polk’s 33 COVID-19 deaths were related to elder-care facilities, according to today’s daily update from the DOH.

One of the Polk residents who died was an 83-year-old woman whose case was confirmed nearly a month ago on April 9. It is unknown whether she had traveled recently or been in contact with another confirmed case of the disease.

The other Polk resident who died was a 73-year-old man whose case was confirmed on April 28. He had not traveled recently and it is unknown whether he had been in contact with another confirmed case of the disease.

Highlands Lake, the facility with 18 deaths, has reported to the state Department of Health that 84 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19: 7 current residents, 54 who have transferred away, and 23 staff members. The DOH’s daily reports on elder-care cases have included those same numbers since May 2.

Only one elder-care-facility in Florida has a higher number of deaths than Highlands Lake, according to the new DOH report. That’s Seminole Pavilion Rehabilitation & Nursing Services in Pinellas County. Two other facilities in Florida have reported 18 deaths.

Highlands Lake’s administrator, Everton Spencer, gave this statement to News Channel 8 earlier this week:

“Sadly, Highlands Lake Center did have several customers pass away, and while it’s unconfirmed whether other chronic health issues besides COVID-19 were a contributing factor, we still mourn their loss. The customers entrusted to our care are like our own family, and all of us are saddened by how this virus is impacting our community. Our thoughts are with their families and friends, along with the loved ones of all our customers. We know this is a challenging time for them, and we continue to stay in communication with customers and their families on a regular basis.

COVID-19 has been found to pose a particular risk to the elderly. That’s why since the beginning of this crisis, we have taken every precaution that we were able to as recommended by the CDC, by our state and federal regulators and the Department of Health. We’ve restricted all non-essential visitors, we are actively screening staff and any other essential visitors and outside healthcare providers who enter out center, including taking their temperatures. Our center is providing available PPE to our team members and we have strong infection control protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

We have and will continue to remain vigilant until the threat of this virus passes, as the safety of our customers and team members is always our highest priority. As always, Highlands Lake Center and our team members are dedicated to providing the highest standards of care to our customers in a warm, respectful, dignified and safe environment.”

Latest numbers

This morning’s COVID-19 updates from the Florida Department of Health compared with the previous day:

  • Polk confirmed cases: 623, an increase of 22
  • Lakeland confirmed cases: 254, an increase of 14
  • Polk deaths: 33, an increase of 2
  • Polk hospitalizations: 207, an increase of 5

Hospitalizations hit a plateau toward the end of April with just five new cases between April 22 and 28, but the rate of new patients has quickened since then, with 68 new admissions since the end of April.

The numbers of confirmed cases and hospitalizations are cumulative and do not reflect how many people have recovered or have been released from the hospital.

Testing in Polk

  • Total tested: 10,169, an increase of 408 over the previous day. That’s the second-highest number of new tests for Polk.
  • Positive: 623
  • Negative: 9,543
  • Inconclusive: 3
  • Await results: 4
  • Percent positive: 6.1%

The numbers of people being tested remains small compared with Polk County’s estimated population of 708,000 people. A shortage of test kits means that until recently only people showing severe symptoms and/or high risk were tested.

Long-term care facilities

  • Cases involving Polk facilities: 132, a decrease of 8
  • Deaths involving Polk facilities: 21, an increase of 1
  • Number of Polk facilities with reported cases: 8 | List (This link lasts only until the next day’s list is published.)

In Lakeland, the list shows current cases at Highlands Lake Center (7 residents, 54 residents transferred away, 23 staff — the same numbers reported since last Saturday), Consulate Health Care (1 resident, 2 transferred, 1 staff), Grand Villa (1 staff) and Lakeland Hills Center (1 transferred), and Scott Lake Health and Rehabilitation Center (1 staff).

More Polk County data

The Florida Department of Health is now releasing county-by-county charts. Here are today’s for Polk:

Click the image to view a larger version
Click the image to view a larger version

ZIP Codes

Cases in Lakeland ZIP codes:

33801: 22, an increase of 5
33803: 23, an increase of 2
33805: 41, an increase of 1
33809: 18, an increase of 3
33810: 29, an increase of 7
33811: 1-4, (until today, 5 were reported)
33812: 10, an increase of 5
33813: 86, an increase of 2
33815: 12, an increase of 3

If you noticed that the increase in cases among Lakeland’s ZIP codes exceeded Lakeland’s new cases, it’s because somebody’s playing catch-up. These numbers were unchanged for the last two days.

View an interactive ZIP code map here. To find local ZIP code data, click on the “Cases by Zip Code” tab below the map and then scroll to Polk and click. Learn how ZIP code data is reported.

Cases in Polk cities

  • Lakeland, 254
  • Winter Haven, 111
  • Davenport, 63
  • Kissimmee, 40*
  • Bartow, 36
  • Lake Wales, 26
  • Auburndale, 17
  • Haines City, 14
  • Mulberry, 12
  • Fort Meade, 10
  • Lake Alfred, 5
  • Frostproof, 4
  • Poinciana, 4
  • Dundee, 3
  • Eagle Lake, 2
  • Wahneta, 2
  • Kathleen, 2
  • Babson Park, 2
  • Bradley, 1
  • Champions Gate, 1
  • Cypress Gardens, 1
  • Indian Lakes Estates, 1
  • Polk City, 1
  • Lake Hamilton, 1
  • Lakeshore (formerly Fedhaven), 1
  • Waverly, 1

* While Kissimmee is in Osceola County, the Health Department classifies a portion of east Polk as Kissimmee. It maintains a separate number for the Osceola portion of Kissimmee.

Download the full Florida report released Saurday.

Tracking the cases

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com


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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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