Florida Nursing Homes May Once Again Be Open to Visitors—A Move Many Are Calling Outright Dangerous
Florida is reportedly en route to opening up its nursing homes to visitors, and many have concerns that this is not only premature, but downright dangerous. Gov. Ron DeSantis created a task force composed of elder care industry trade group leaders, one resident, and state officials that, in late August, submitted a list of recommendations that would allow both caregivers and visitors back into the facilities without first being tested for COVID-19, and reports indicate that DeSantis is expected to sign off on these recommendations within days.
There is no question that, unless something significantly more restrictive is put in place, not only are more nursing home residents at risk of contracting COVID-19, but nursing home staff and the broader community at large is at risk as well.
According to reports, the current recommendations specifically provide for:
- Only two visitors maximum allowed at any given time;
- Each facility to determine visiting times and visit durations;
- Family members who are considered to be “essential caregivers” (i.e. those that provide assistance with bathing, dressing, “emotional support,” or feeding) to visit their family members without any social distancing requirements (although they would be required to wear personal protective equipment); and
- Family members not classified as “essential caregivers” to visit with social distancing requirements in place as long as the facility has not had any virus cases in 14 days and does not have any new staff employed there.
The fact that visitation without social distancing requirements or testing would be allowed for anyone, and there has been no mention of masks or any other being required for non-essential caregiver visitors in the recommendations, is disheartening given that deaths from COVID-19 in Florida nursing homes at one point accounted for 50 percent of the entire state of Florida’s fatalities. There are an estimated 10,000 active COVID-19 cases currently in these facilities, and many do not have the infection control and prevention procedures in place to keep employees, residents, and visitors protected, which then risks bringing the virus back out into the community—i.e. the families, schools, workplaces, and anywhere else nursing home facility staff and visitors associate.
Hundreds of Thousands of Potential Visitors Going in and Out Each Day, Without Testing & Only Some with Protective Equipment
Considering the vague category of “emotional support” to be an essential service has brought criticism even within DeSantis’ administration from the state Surgeon General, who has expressed concern over including such a loose interpretation of a CDC guideline. As a result of including this ambiguous category of those who qualify to visit without having to be tested or maintain a distance of six feet from residents, there could be hundreds of thousands of visitors who end up coming into and going out of these facilities on a regular basis, and according the Surgeon General, the more people going in—even if they are using personal protective equipment—the more people who are going to get COVID.
If Your Loved One Contracted COVID-19 In A Florida Nursing Home, Contact Florida Lawyer Mark Wright for Help or Questions Involving Injuries or Wrongful Death
Florida nursing homes are already being sued in droves due to the thousands of people who are dying of the virus. Suddenly increasing visitation is inevitably going to increase infection numbers and thus deaths. If your loved one became infected or died in a Florida nursing home, contact Tampa injury attorney Mark Wright today for a free consultation to find out more about your rights and options.