JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over the last year, more than 10,000 residents and staff members of Florida long-term care facilities died from complications of COVID-19. But recent data from the Florida Department of Health shows infection inside Florida facilities over the last several weeks has taken a dramatic dip.
University of South Florida epidemiology professor Dr. Jason Salemi tracks COVID-19 health trends.
Dr. Salemi said in the last five weeks, infections reported by the Florida Department of Health at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and rehabilitation facilities have gone down 70%.
“Undoubtedly, this is a product of the vaccination effort and the fact that these facilities were prioritized at the beginning, they got their vaccinations early, more and more people have gotten both doses,” said Dr. Salemi. “I think that is a good sign of what the vaccine can do.”
Mary Daniels gained national attention after volunteering to become a dishwasher at her husband’s nursing home while long-term care facilities in Florida were under lockdown. Daniels has since become an advocate for families with loved ones inside long-term care facilities.
Daniels says despite infection rates going down inside long-term care facilities and high rates of residents getting vaccinated for COVID-19, not much has changed for families since limited visitation became allowed in November.
“The order currently in place says we can take them home if they pass a screening when they return. That they will not be quarantined and that is not being honored,” said Daniels. “He’s been vaccinated two weeks ago today he received his second shot. I have been vaccinated. I got mine before him. I cannot bring him home to just the two of us here and take him back without him being quarantined in his room 14 days. And I think that’s ridiculous.”
Daniels says she’s written a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and to the head of the Department of Emergency Management pleading for more flexibility in visitation requirements at long-term care facilities.
“How long is this going to go?” asked Daniels. “I mean, we were told with rapid testing, we would be able to get in. We were told with the vaccine that we will be able to get in. What’s next?”