Pasco Nonprofit Braces for Potential Impact of Prolonged Coronavirus Precautions

By Sarah Blazonis Pasco County

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Community Aging & Retirement Services (CARES) Senior Health Clinic is taking precautions related to the coronavirus, but the nonprofit’s president said it’s running into an unexpected issue.

  • CARES Senior Health Clinic provides health care to people 55 and older in need
  • Nonprofit’s president: volunteers taking precautions, like extra cleaning
  • CARES said cleaners and disinfectants becoming harder to find, prices seem to be on the rise
  • More Pasco County stories

“Number one — we cannot find anywhere hand sanitizer. Number two — the prices are now going up,” said CARES President and CEO Jemith Rosa about the supplies staff use to disinfect the clinic. “What we have been doing is trying to get as much as we can from different places, but we are paying a little bit more and waiting for the delivery to come to us.”

The Senior Health Clinic serves low income people age 55 and older who don’t have insurance and either aren’t eligible or aren’t yet approved for Medicare or Medicaid.

“CARES Clinic was created because there was a major need in this county for those seniors that were falling through the cracks,” said Rosa.

The clinic is run privately by CARES. Aside from one employee, it’s an all-volunteer operation.

“They have a place to come, and we treat them like they’re important because they are. They’re just having trouble,” said Dr. Dean Ersig, one of the volunteers.

Taking additional precautions to protect staff, patients

Wallis Swartz was one of the patients who came to see Ersig Wednesday.

“I got this bad cough,” Swartz said. “Came on real fast on me, kind of had me scared when I was driving my taxi last night because I was having trouble with breathing.”

While Swartz said thoughts of the coronavirus crossed his mind, the illness isn’t a major concern for him. He said if the clinic’s services weren’t available, he likely wouldn’t seek medical treatment at all.

“It means I can maintain my health a lot better than I can otherwise,” Swartz said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older people, CARES’ main clientele, are among those at greater risk of developing a serious illness if they contract the coronavirus.

The clinic is taking additional precautions, including asking patients to use hand sanitizer before and after signing in, asking patients who are coughing and sniffling to wear masks, and staff are being extra vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

Additional measures going forward?

While Rosa said there is a concern about a strain on the nonprofit’s resources if prolonged precautions are required, the agency is not facing a financial difficulty at the moment.

Nonprofits provide important services in communities nationwide. Rick Cohen, the chief communications officer and chief operating officer for the National Council of Nonprofits, said the impact the coronavirus is having on those organizations varies.

There have been cases where some groups have canceled events, while others are focused more on preparation for the potential spread of the illness in their communities, including developing plans for employees to work remotely.

While Rosa said there was no immediate struggle at CARES, she said donations of bottles of hand sanitizer to hand out to patients, as well as disinfecting wipes, would be welcome. She also noted CARES is always looking for doctors and nurses to volunteer at the clinic.

To learn more about the Senior Health Clinic, visit their website HERE. For more information about how you can protect yourself from the coronavirus, visit the CDC’s coronavirus page.