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I-Team uncovers family members flouting state's no-visit rules at assisted living facilities

Posted: 5:45 PM, Mar 23, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-23 18:32:29-04
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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — As Florida’s death toll continues to climb, the governor is calling out nursing homes and assisted living facilities, saying they must follow orders and restrict visitors.

But I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern found that’s not always happening.

In the time since a March 14 order from the governor,restricting visitors to nursing homes and assisted living facilities for 30 days, the I-Team has seen videos in our area of family members getting around those rules -- sitting right next to loved ones after arranging a meeting outside of the facility.

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In a news conference on Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “People need to follow this because if you’re not, you’re putting people you’re supposed to care for at risk.”

DeSantis pointed to Atria Willow Wood, an assisted living facility in Broward County, as an example of what not to do. He said an investigation found construction workers, staff and cooks were not screened and proceeded to interact with residents.

Three people have now died from the same facility with a total of 10 positive COVID-19 cases and four more tests pending.

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“If you’re in this business to take care of people who may be susceptible to this, you shouldn’t need to have someone breathing down your neck. You should do the right thing and protect the folks in Florida who are most vulnerable,” said DeSantis.

The emergency order also states, “Residents must be discouraged from leaving the facility.”

Some assisted living facilities are helping to make that happen. At Canterbury Tower in Tampa, residents are offered grocery shopping and prescription pickup services so they can stay at the nursing home.

The I-Team reached out to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) for details on how many nursing homes are under investigation for breaking the rules. The I-Team is still waiting to hear back from AHCA on how many nursing homes or assisted living facilties are under investigation.

If you have concerns about a facility being out of compliance with the governor’s order, or with any other regulations, contact AHCA’s Complaint Administration Unit as soon as possible at 1-888-419-3456 or fill out a complaint form online.

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