Duval County

Some family members now deemed ‘essential caregivers’ and can hug their loved ones in nursing homes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The task force for the safe and limited re-opening of long-term care facilities in Florida is sending its recommendations to governor Ron DeSantis for approval.

The plan would allow for re-opening of facilities to the general public if the facility is COVID-19 free for 14 days—meaning no staff or residents have contracted the virus during that two week period.

According to the taskforce, about 60% of Florida’s nursing home facilities have not had a COVID-19 case in two weeks.

Essential caregivers can go inside the facilities, even if there are active cases.

On Wednesday, a big milestone was made. Those who provide emotional support, like a spouse or child, will now be considered an essential caregiver, meaning they will be allowed to get closer than six feet and hug their loved ones.

Previously essential caregivers were the only ones who could get close with residents. Essential caregivers are defined as those who help a resident get dressed or perform routine activities.

Mary Daniel, a taskforce board member and the wife of a man staying at Rosecastle at Deerwood.

Daniel became a dishwasher at Rosecastle at Deerwood, after not being able to see her husband for more than 100 days.

The details of the re-opening will be up to each individual facility.

But, there are some statewide guidelines: only five people can be listed as visitors for each resident and only two can come to visit at a time. They must stay six feet apart unless they are essential caregivers or a compassionate caregiver.

Compassionate visitors are defined as those who assist residents through emotional situations, including death.

Other rules include staff being tested regularly. Visitors are not required to go get a COVID-19 test. However, the facility can offer one upon arrival.

Visitors must wear PPE when visiting—that could include a gown, gloves, mask and eyewear.

The governor must approve the plan before it goes into effect.