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DeSantis lifts some prohibitions on visits at long-term care facilities

Restrictions on child visitors, compassionate caregivers reversed

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Oct 22, 2020

Governor Ron DeSantis announced he was lifting some restrictions on visits to long-term care facilities and that the state would be providing rapid antigen tests to such facilities

Governor Ron DeSantis was in Fort Myers on Thursday to announce a loosening of restrictions regarding visits to long-term care facilities.

At a roundtable at Amavida Living in Fort Myers, DeSantis said he was ordering the Department of Emergency Management to remove the prohibition on nursing home visitations for children among other limits installed upon nursing home visits and procedures since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Without visitation, the stories were really heartbreaking because people were struggling,” DeSantis said. “They were struggling in ways that we had a duty to mitigate.”

The order announced on Thursday expands an earlier order in August which allowed limited visits to nursing homes. “The young kids aren’t major vectors of this,” DeSantis said. “We need to have family connections. This is very important.”

“It’s just not the same to be in a facility and not be able to be with people that you love, not be able to hug them.”

DeSantis said that mitigating one virus shouldn’t be done at the exclusion of all else.

“Yes, we need to mitigate the effects of this disease but this virus is not the end of all health issues,” DeSantis said.

“Health is about people’s physical, mental, emotional, social well-being.”

There will also be new rapid tests for COVID-19 provided to long-term care facilities. DeSantis said the rapid tests are being promoted throughout the state. DeSantis said rapid testing will not be mandated by the state for visitors. There is a 15-minute antigen test done by swabbing the nose. “We will keep sending these to the facilities,” he said. DeSantis said the state will leave it up to facilities to decide how they want to use the tests or require them of visitors or staff. “It’s not foolproof. These tests do run a 1.5% false positive rate,” he said.

DeSantis said the state had sent iPads to some nursing homes. Millions of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment were sent to facilities since the pandemic began, DeSantis said.

“I think there’s something about when people are happier, when their spirits are higher, when the families are involved, I think the staff performs better.”

Since Sept. 1, DeSantis said the cases in long-term care facilities have declined by 70%. “It’s been a really steep decline,” he said.

Outdoor visitations will be allowed regardless of any COVID-19 tests within the facility. If there is a positive test by resident or staff member, indoor visitation will still be limited but outdoor visits will be allowed.

“We’re not requiring social distancing for compassionate caregivers,” DeSantis said.

Facilities will also be able to set their own limits for how many visitors can attend a nursing facility. Previously, the state was limiting visitors to patients at long-term care facilities to five.

DeSantis said the state will also be distributing new therapeutics.

DeSantis made his remarks at a roundtable with nursing home administrators and relatives of those in nursing homes.

Brenda Tate, whose husband is a retired engineer who is a resident at Amavida Living, said his cognitive decline has continued. “I’ve missed critical time with him that he could be remembering me, be remembering out children, be remembering our grandchildren,” Tate said.

Tate said that rapid testing at the facility will lead to more confidence.

DeSantis noted that hospitalizations for COVID-19 has been down from the summer months in Lee County. Hospitalizations at Lee Health rose from 48 on Oct. 12 to 78 on Thursday. Those numbers are down from highs in July, when hospitalization counts for COVID-19 exceeded more than 300 patients.