Ron Desantis

The federal government on Monday released guidelines states could follow to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors. In the guidelines, which have no legal weight, the Trump administration recommended that nursing homes don’t reopen for visitation until they have no new reported COVID-19 for at least 28 days; have adequate personal protective equipment for staff members; and have adequate access to COVID-19 testing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week that he would like to reopen Florida’s nursing homes, which have been closed to visitors since March 14. DeSantis said he thought banning visitation prevented thousands of cases of COVID-19 at nursing homes and assisted living facilities but that it came at the cost.

“Having the isolation does come at a psychological and social cost,” the governor said. “I think one of the frustrating things throughout this whole process has been an inability of people to ever discuss the negative effects of mitigation.” But the moratorium on visitors, as well as other steps the DeSantis administration has taken, have not prevented the deadly respiratory disease from spreading in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities in many areas of the state.

Recommendations are available for state and local officials to help them determine the level of mitigation needed for their communities’ Medicare/Medicaid certified long term care to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. State leaders have been encouraged to collaborate with the state survey agency, and State and local health departments to decide how these and other criteria or actions should be implemented in their state.

The CMS is committed to taking critical steps to ensure America’s nursing homes are prepared to respond to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency (PHE). Additionally, CMS is providing recommendations to help determine the level of mitigation needed to prevent the transmission of COVID19 in nursing homes.

A State permitting individual nursing homes to move through the phases based on each nursing home’s status for meeting the criteria for entering a phase. Given the critical importance in limiting COVID-19 exposure in nursing homes, decisions on relaxing restrictions should be made with careful review of a number of facility-level, community, and State factors/orders, and in collaboration with State and/or local health officials and nursing homes. Because the pandemic is affecting communities in different ways, State and local leaders should regularly monitor the factors for reopening and adjust their plans accordingly.

As of Monday, Florida had 901 COVID-19 deaths involving residents or staff members of long-term care facilities.

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