Some long-term care facilities in Florida will be able to open their doors for visitors as soon as Wednesday, September 2, in Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in Jacksonville Tuesday that his Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities has given him recommendations that he is signing into law Tuesday.
“Many of the folks understand that they have loved ones who are in the last stage of their life,” DeSantis said. “They're not demanding a medical miracle, they're not having unrealistic expectations. They just would like to be able to say goodbye or to hug somebody.”
DeSantis appeared to tear up when talking about the measures the state took to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.
In order for a long-term care facility to qualify in allowing visitors once again, it must have had at least two weeks without any new coronavirus cases among its residents or staff.
Visitations will be accepted by appointment only, and when they get to the facility, they’ll need to go through a screening process that includes answering questions, along with a temperature check.
Residents can designate up to five visitors and two visitors will be allowed at a time. Minors will not be allowed to visit the facilities yet, according to DeSantis, although it’s something he says could change “very soon.”
Visitors will need to bring their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
General visitors will have to keep a six-foot distance from the resident, but people who are designated as a resident’s caregiver - meaning they help with daily life assistance - will be allowed to touch them and get closer.
Caregivers also won’t have to wait the 14-day period if a new coronavirus case sprouts up in the facility.
Meanwhile, the recommendations bring back the possibility for residents to receive services from beauty salons, barbers, and other outside health care services they couldn’t receive due to restrictions.
Florida Secretary for Healthcare Administration Mary Mayhew said an influential factor in opening up long-term care facilities back up to visitation is the downward trend of positive COVID-19 cases.
“We've seen over a 40% reduction in the number of staff in our long term care facilities who are positive,” Mayhew said. “The positivity rate right now is about 1.2% among staff in our nursing homes and assisted living facilities, incredibly low. We have seen over a 30% reduction in the number of residents who are currently positive for COVID.”
Mary Daniel, a Jacksonville woman who made national headlines after taking a job as a dishwasher to see her husband at a long-term care facility, was appointed to the task force and helped come up with many of the recommendations.
“We are going to see some cases, I know that,” Daniel said. “But I also know that I want to be with my husband and everybody else out there, hundreds of thousands of caregivers want to be with their families, and to be able to hold their hands at the end of their life is going to be a precious gift that we're grateful to have back.”
And due to the changes, Daniel doesn’t think she’ll be washing dishes much longer.
“I’m turning in my two weeks notice today,” Daniel said. “I’m going back to just being a wife.”
There is no current timeline for when normal visitations will return, according to Mayhew, although tweaks to the current guidelines are possible if they’re met with success over the next few weeks.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.