One day after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he’d like reopen Florida long-term care facilities to visitors, AARP Florida issued a statement warning that the state’s testing policies leave facility residents and staff members at risk.
“While there are encouraging signs across the state that mitigation measures have slowed the growth of the virus, residents and staff of elder-care facilities remain at serious risk,” AARP State Director Jeff Johnson said in a prepared statement.
The senior-advocacy group is calling for point-of-care testing for COVID-19 that would allow face-to-face visitation with residents.
Johnson noted that the state on Thursday reported an additional 48 COVID-19 deaths, with 38 of them involving residents or staff members of long-term care facilities.
“It’s clear that the virus is getting into these facilities through contractors and staff. Only widespread, repeated testing will work. By testing only a few locations on a few occasions, we’re leaving too much to chance,” Johnson said in a statement. “That’s why it’s common sense to require widespread testing and prevention efforts focused on all elder-care facilities.”
Florida does not have a universal testing policy for all facilities and residents.
Instead, the state does spot testing at facilities that are known COVID-19 hotspots. As of Thursday, the state reported 814 COVID-19 deaths stemming from long-term care facilities, 43 percent of the overall number of deaths in Florida. DeSantis on March 14 issued an executive order banning visitation at the facilities as a way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
The governor said the decision helped prevent thousands of infections at the nearly 700 nursing homes and 3,100 assisted living facilities across the state. But he said it comes at the costs of isolating seniors. In his statement Johnson noted that residents have been cut off from visitors for nearly two months.
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