Staff members at COVID-19 nursing facilities test positive

COVID-19 test samples.
COVID-19 test samples. (WPLG)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Staff members at nursing facilities across the state that have agreed to care for long-term care residents with COVID-19 are beginning to test positive for the virus.

The development potentially puts at risk the number of beds available to long-term care residents who are treated at the facilities after testing positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted using the 19 facilities as a way to help prevent the spread of the virus in other nursing homes.

As of Monday, 108 staff members at the facilities had tested positive.

The 19 facilities have agreed to offer, in the aggregate, as many as 1,296 beds.

In a call Tuesday of hospital officials from across the state, a representative of the Cleveland Clinic hospital in Martin County said the infected staff members were becoming an issue and that some of the nursing facilities weren’t accepting patients because they didn’t have enough workers.

The Cleveland Clinic hospital representative asked officials from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health whether nursing facility staff members who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic could care for COVID-19 patients. State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, the secretary of the Department of Health, quickly said no.

“Even though individuals are asymptomatic, they spread the virus,” said Rivkees who added that the staff members need to be isolated and away from the facilities for 10 days.

A News Service of Florida review of state data shows that 11 of the 19 facilities that have agreed to provide dedicated beds for COVID-19 patients have staff members who are positive for the disease.

DeSantis on Tuesday described the 19 facilities as “really, really important” tools, noting that they help residents “but (are) also helpful for hospitals to manage their resources appropriately.”

Adequate staffing -- whether at hospitals, nursing homes or assisted living facilities -- has become a priority for DeSantis. To that end, the state put in a request to the federal government to send 1,500 health care professionals to Florida to be deployed to facilities in need.

While Vice President Mike Pence assured DeSantis on July 2 that the Trump administration was going to be “processing (the request) in very short order,” Florida continues to wait for the staff.