DeSantis increases fight against coronavirus in Florida’s long-term care facilities

Governor wants to clear the way for nursing home visitors, but it’s unclear when that will occur

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Noting that people 65 years and older make up 84% of the COVID-19 deaths in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is stepping up the state’s response to COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

As of Wednesday’s Florida Department of Health update, 776 residents and staff of long-term care facilities have died. Fourteen of Clay County’s 22 deaths and 11 of Jacksonville’s 32 deaths were connected to one of those facilities.

“We have over 4,400 long-term care facilities in the state of Florida, over 150,000 residents and almost 200,000 staff who work at these various facilities which is a very important vector to worry about in the transmission of the disease,” DeSantis said.

In a meeting Wednesday, the governor reiterated that the state is working to establish and support more nursing centers that treat COVID-19 patients like Dolphin Pointe Health Care in Jacksonville that he visited last week.

DeSantis issued an emergency order in March that would prohibit visitors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities and would not allow hospitals to send patients who tested positive for COVID-19 back to their respective living facility.

Last week, DeSantis updated that rule and asked the Agency for Health Care Administration to require COVID-19 testing of all hospital patients, regardless of symptoms, prior to releasing them to a nursing home and residential care facility.

The governor’s emergency order also required all vendors and staff to be screened for the virus prior to entering any facility.

The state has also given flexibility within the Medicaid program to allow for medically necessary behavioral health.

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