TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida released the names of 303 nursing homes where staff or patients have been tested positive for the coronavirus.
The seven-page list released Saturday evening names nursing homes and long-term care facilities in 45 of the state’s 67 counties. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said while patient names won’t be released, he thought it was important for families to know which facilities have had positive cases.
“I told the surgeon general from the beginning that we want to put as much information out as we can.” DeSantis told reporters before the list was released. “It is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.”
Facilities already were required to notify all residents, staff and families once there is a positive test. However, the list doesn’t provide context such as whether that patient recovered from the virus or what the outcome was.
“We have no reason to think that that wasn’t done, we know it was done most of the time, but at the same time if you have one incident and a week from now they don’t follow through with that, I don’t want to be in a situation where the families don’t know,” DeSantis said.
As of Saturday evening, there were 1,785 cases and 175 deaths among staff and residents in Florida’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the state Department of Health. Overall, Florida has had about 26,000 cases and 764 deaths, according to numbers released Sunday.
The counties with the most facilities on the list include Miami-Dade with 54, Broward with 39 and Palm Beach with 36.
The update comes as DeSantis prepares to announce the members of a task force that will make recommendations on how to begin reopening the state.
Luke Neumann, vice president at Palm Garden, said the state’s decision was not surprising and agreed that “communication is key,” but he pleaded with the state to give frontline workers at nursing homes priority for personal protective gear.
Palm Gardens’ 14 nursing homes completely restricted visitors early on and was up front with patients and their families about the safety measures being taken. But Neumann said those necessary safety precautions brought their own unique problems of keeping residents from drowning in loneliness, isolation and fear.
He said caregivers set up FaceTime, Zoom and other options to connect residents with their families, calling them heroes who “laugh, they smile, they love our residents even as they battle their own fears.”
Neumann said frontline workers at nursing homes are in the same situation as hospitals and emergency personnel, but have no priority for masks, shields, gloves and hand sanitizers.
“Many centers are only receiving partial orders from private vendors, and many of those orders are delayed three weeks to four weeks,” he said.
Steve Bahmer, president of Leading Age Florida, which represents over 500 nursing homes, ALFs and continuing care buildings, said he hears daily from facilities desperate for more protective gear and widespread, rapid repeated testing.
“Getting test results in five to seven days or even longer isn’t as helpful as it could be when your trying to prevent the virus from getting in,” he said, adding everyone including staff needs to be tested regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
“We’ve got to be testing everybody and we need to be doing that frequently,” he said.
A trade group representing nursing homes in the state criticized the list for not being “consumer friendly and does not reflect what is occurring in Florida’s long term care facilities right now.”
“The list does not inform the public why the facility is included – for example, it does not identify whether there are residents who have COVID-19 in the facility at the current time,” said Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp.
She added that frontline caregivers have kept the virus contained to just 1 percent of our more than 155,000 residents living in the state’s 3,700 nursing homes and assisted living facilities.