For Seniors in Florida’s Villages, Coronavirus Dangers Stack Up

For Seniors in Florida’s Villages, Coronavirus Dangers Stack Up

Evening dancing at Sumter Landing Town Square in Florida’s The Villages on March 26, 2020. The Villages has one of the highest concentrations of elderly people at extreme risk to coronavirus of anywhere in Florida or perhaps America. (Dirk Shadd, Tampa Bay Times) The Villages built itself into America’s biggest and most famous retirement community by selling the ultimate Florida lifestyle: endless vacation in a warm-weather paradise where you never have to be alone. But everything that defines the Villages now puts its residents at risk. If the coronavirus rips through the community, experts say the Villages’ huge population of highly social seniors could crush the local health care system. Older adults are much more likely to be hospitalized or to die from the virus. If too many people need intensive care, the fear is there will not be the supplies and hospital space needed to save lives. This is already happening in some cities. In the Villages, nearly 80 percent of residents are over 65. The community has other factors lined up against it. Its main hospital has been given a rare one-star rating by the federal government and has been criticized by residents for long emergency-room wait times. It sits in a part of the state that Harvard University researchers found would be ill-equipped to handle a large influx of coronavirus patients, based on the number of available hospital beds. And the Villages has drawn national attention in recent weeks as a place where social gatherings continued as parts of the country began to shut down. Public health experts say limiting social contact is the best way to stop the virus. For seniors, they say, such restrictions can be the difference between life and death. The Villages is far from the only place in Florida that has […]

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