As COVID Numbers Improve, Florida Considers Nursing Home Visits

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks during a news conference along with Dr. Joshua Lenchus, chief medical officer of Broward Health Medical Center on Monday. The number of patients in Florida hospitals for COVID-19 was relatively stable, at just below 8,000 and down from highs above 9,500 nearly two weeks ago.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

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DeSantis spoke in Jacksonville, where he held a roundtable with advocates for the elderly and administration officials to examine ways to open nursing homes for family member visits. It’s been more than four months since Florida halted all outside visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in an effort to protect residents from COVID-19. The policy has helped keep elderly residents safe, but DeSantis says he’s heard from many who were distressed that they couldn’t be with family members in their final moments. «It leaves a mark,» he said.

DeSantis says he wants to begin allowing people who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies to visit family members in long term care facilities. People with antibodies, he says, aren’t at risk of catching or further spreading the virus. He’s appointed a committee of advocates and officials to look at other measures to allow family members to visit nursing homes.

One of those on the committee is Mary Daniel, a Jacksonville woman who has become an advocate for those with family members in nursing homes. In order to visit her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, Daniel took a job as a dishwasher in his assisted living facility. Her story made national news and drew attention to the anguish of caregivers nationwide. She’s encouraging Florida to look at the examples of Indiana and Minnesota, which established guidelines for designating «Essential Family Caregivers.» They allow people who test negative for the coronavirus to visit people in long-term care. Daniel says, «Our goal is to get to our loved ones. They need a hug from us, not a picture of me on FaceTime, not me at the window. They need us.»

  • COVID-19
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis
  • nursing homes
  • Florida

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