Florida scaling back testing policies for long-term care facilities’ staff

Safety at long term care facilities

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced every-other-week testing of long-term facilities' workers would be eliminated, saying the policies are no longer necessary.

News of testing requirements being scaled back comes after DeSantis said on September 1, he was lifting a five-month ban on visitors at long-term care facilities.

Under an executive order, members of the general public can visit facilities if they socially distance and wear masks, if facilities have not had any new COVID-19 cases for a 14-day period.

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AHCA’s secretary, Mary Mayhew, said in a weekly phone call with long-term care industry officials that the measures are no longer necessary now that the federal government is supplying nursing homes with rapid tests, and requiring staff members to be tested under a rule it issued on September 2.

However, there are no federal or state requirements for the state’s 3,111 licensed assisted living facilities that offer more than 110,504 beds across the state.

Director of AARP Florida, Jeff Johnson, criticized the decision to scale back testing, questioning how facilities will be able to determine whether new cases have arisen in a two-week period.

“Rapid-result testing of elder-care staff, visitors and residents, in assisted living facilities and group homes as well as nursing homes, is absolutely critical to allowing families and friends to visit frail elders again. We look forward to learning more about the details of changes in contracts and regulatory requirements,” Johnson said in a prepared statement. “

But this much is already clear: Frail older Floridians and their families have borne far too much of the pain and loss caused by this pandemic. To protect them, long-term care staff and the communities in which they reside, we need more testing, not less.”

Mary Daniel of Jacksonville, FL, whose viral story of taking a job as a dishwasher at her husband’s long-term care facility so she could visit him caught the attention of Governor DeSantis, says she’s not concerned by every-other-week testing efforts being scaled back.

She explained her thoughts by saying results from standard testing would sometimes take days and didn’t prevent the virus from entering long-term care facilities.

“But the testing here was not rapid testing. So, I would get tested on a Thursday for example, and not get the results until Tuesday,” said Daniel told Action News Jax.

Daniel says she’s pushing for the federal government to also provide rapid testing for assisted living facilities and believes proper use of PPE and good hygiene can safely allow members of the public to visit loved ones in facilities."

But I do believe that we can be perfectly safe, by following these rules, without having that testing. Again, with the goal, the end goal being, rapid testing, at the point of care," said Daniel.