Florida just passed a grim number. 50,000 people have died from the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health. It shows the pandemic is still spreading throughout South Florida and can impact the most vulnerable among us.
That has children and residents at Broward Children’s Center in a tough spot. The non-profit has a 36-bed pediatric nursing home and a group home for 25 young adults who are medically fragile or immunocompromised.
Carolina Rondon just graduated from high school with no stage and no crowd. She was in isolation with her parents through Zoom. She’s a resident at the center with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that weakens muscles as they age. She uses a wheelchair and a ventilator.
“I love learning. I love doing productive things and helpful things and making an impact on other people,” Rondon said.
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She hopes to attend Broward College for teaching or social work once the pandemic is over. But currently, there’s too much virus in the community to go on campus.
“It will just slow things down for me and I basically want to make the most out of life,” Rondon said.
Many of her fellow residents are medically fragile children who cannot get vaccinated.
“With the new variant and things, with the rate of COVID being ever-present. It’s a danger to my health and to my fellow residents that live here. So if I go out, I don’t want to bring anything back,” Rondon said.
Before the pandemic, children there used to take group trips about four times a month: to the beach, to the mall, to go out to eat, and to the movies. That no longer happens. It’s too dangerous.
Rondon can leave when she needs to see her doctor, but many kids at the center have not left the property since the pandemic started a year and a half ago.
“Imagine if you had a child that had these kinds of problems and you were not able to hold them, kiss them, hug them," said Marjorie Evans, CEO of Broward Children’s Center.
Evans tells NBC 6 the costs for supplies and staffing have increased 40%. New federal regulations begin soon which will require staff to get vaccinated or test twice a week, procedures they already have in place.
They’re also in need of teaching aids, certified nursing assistants and nurses.
“Management is now out on the floor doing direct service now. We have very few people who are able to stay in a management position and not perform direct care because of the shortage,” Evans said.
Her main concerns are nearby hospitals. When her residents need to go to the hospital, they need specialized care. COVID patients are taking up much of that space in the ICU.
According to a September report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, Florida stopped reporting child hospitalizations in June but has the second most child coronavirus cases in the country, after California.
Evans doesn’t understand why more people don’t wear masks in public to protect the most vulnerable.
“When you get vaccinated or wear a mask, you’re protecting other people. And that’s where the individual responsibility comes into play. You have a responsibility to protect other people,” Evans said.
The community spread of the virus also deals with the future goals for young adults like Carolina.
“I just keep going and stay positive,” she said, “It’s a small thing to ask for our safety, or their safety, everybody’s safety. Just wear a mask.”