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Walton nursing home records second COVID-19 death in matter of days, as number of positive cases at facility rises to 30

Jim Thompson
jthompson@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

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DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A 66-year-old male resident of the Chautauqua Rehabilitation & Nursing Center who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, marking the second death at the facility related to the respiratory illness, and also the second COVID-19-related death in Walton County.

The first COVID-19-related death at Chautauqua came May 1, when a 94-year-old woman succumbed to the disease.

As of Monday, there had been a total of 30 positive COVID-19 cases reported at Chautauqua, involving both residents and staff, representing nearly half of the 65 cases reported in the county.

State data from Sunday showed that at least 12 of those cases involved residents of the facility. At least two of the staff members afflicted with COVID-19 had recovered as of late last week, according to a spokeswoman for Signature HealthCARE, the Kentucky-based company that operates Chautauqua Rehabilitation & Nursing Center.

“The Florida Department of Health in Walton County is working closely with local nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to take proactive steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” the local health department noted in a Monday news release announcing the second death at Chautauqua.

“Nursing home populations are at a higher risk of being affected by COVID-19 because residents are typically older or disabled adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions,” the release goes on to note.

Patti Roberts, spokeswoman for the local health department, said the department can go as far as seeking help from the local emergency management agency in connection with coronavirus issues in the county, but oversight of facilities like Chautauqua resides with the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

The large number of cases at Chautauqua, among staff as well as residents, came to light as the result of a mass testing program begun at the facility prior to the initial death, according to Roberts.

The death of the 66-year-old man comes as Walton County is experiencing a relative spike in its number of COVID-19 cases.

From March 20, when the first positive COVID-19 case was recorded in Walton County, there were many days when no cases were recorded, and on days when cases were recorded, there were never more than three reports.

Then, on May 1, five cases were reported, with six positive COVID-19 cases reported the next day. From May 7 through Sunday, 13 positive cases were reported, according to Florida Department of Health data.

According to a Monday news release from the local heath department, the highest number of local COVID-19 cases has been recorded in DeFuniak Springs, site of the Chautauqua Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, with 35 cases.

Elsewhere in the county, 11 cases have been reported in Santa Rosa Beach, with four positive cases in Freeport, three in Miramar Beach, and a single case in the Laurel Hill-Paxton area. Eleven of the positive COVID-19 results are from out-of-state residents tested in Walton County.