Staff members at nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be required to be tested for COVID-19 every two weeks under a pair of emergency rules issued Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration.
Facilities that don’t comply with the emergency rules could have their licenses revoked or suspended and face administrative fines. The new rules reinforce a thrust by the Republican governor to tamp down the spread of the deadly respiratory disease in facilities that house tens of thousands of seniors across the state.
“To have the periodic testing every two weeks, that is more surveillance-style testing. You test once and you’re negative, that’s great,” DeSantis said Tuesday, when he announced the new policy at a Tallahassee press conference. “But you can get it two weeks later. So to constantly go back to the staff – which will be the entry point for this – is something that is very, very significant.”
The emergency rules came after an effort to test staff members and residents at all 3,803 long-term care facilities across the state.
Data as of Tuesday showed 4,198 long-term care residents with COVID-19 and 2,448 infected staff members. Sixty-one percent of the positive residents – or 2,584 people – had been transferred out of the facilities where they contracted the virus to hospitals or state-designated COVID-19 facilities.
Florida has also continued to ban visitors at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as the highly contagious disease is particularly dangerous to seniors and people with underlying medical conditions. It’s been more than 100 days since residents have been able to have in-person visits with family and friends.
“I know folks in the community have asked, ‘When can you have visitation again?’” DeSantis said. “And I want to be able to do that. But we obviously want to be very safe about it because that’s a high-risk environment.”Under the emergency rules, which take effect July 7, nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be banned from allowing any staff members into the buildings who have not been tested for COVID-19. Facilities will be required to begin testing all staff every two weeks thereafter. An exception will be made for staff members who can provide medical documentation showing that they had previously been infected and have recovered from the virus.
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