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Despite COVID-19 surge, Florida AARP wants visitors allowed back inside long-term care facilities

Proposal calls for on-site rapid testing
Posted at 12:54 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-03 17:54:13-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, state leaders for the nation’s largest advocacy group for seniors is lobbying to bring back nursing home visits.

ABC Action News investigator Adam Walser spoke with the director for Florida’s AARP about this new push.

In mid-March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order, banning visitors from nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

But even as the state’s coronavirus cases hit new record highs, Florida’s AARP office wants to roll back that order, saying the impact of isolation is taking a huge toll on seniors and their loved ones.

“They have been in isolation, separated from their families and separated from each other for months now. And we don’t do that to prisoners,” said Jeff Johnson, Director of AARP Florida.

Johnson is calling on the state to provide on-site rapid testing and personal protective equipment which he says would allow visitors to go back inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“As much as our message is we need to keep these folks safe from the virus, and we do, we also need to step up that testing so we can get to the point that it’s not just staff that get tested on the way through the door to make sure they’re free of the virus,” Johnson said.

But the federal government says states should not allow visitors at these facilities until “there are no new cases for 28 days.”

So far, more than half of Florida’s COVID-19 deaths have been associated with long-term care facilities, even though only about 2% of the state’s population live or work at these facilities.

The state is also seeing a recent surge in new cases and hospitalizations.

Rapid testing is currently not widespread at long-term care facilities and when it is used, it doesn’t always identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers.

We reached out to the Governor’s office regarding the AARP’s proposal, but have not yet heard back.

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