State To Randomly Test Asymptomatic Long-Term Care Facility Staff, Residents For Coronavirus

Mar 23, 2020
Originally published on March 24, 2020 7:34 am

The state is sending paramedics to long-term care facilities to randomly test asymptomatic staff and residents for COVID-19.

The Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida Department of Health sent letters to assisted living facility and nursing home administrators asking them to comply with random testing.

Paramedics will take random samples from staff and residents with no symptoms. Doctors say a people can have the coronavirus for up to 14 days before they show symptoms. 

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Kristen Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, said this is important to slow infection.

"The outbreak in the Washington State nursing home is evidence of just how quickly coronavirus can spread in a long-term care facility and persons who are asymptomatic can spread the infection,” Knapp said.

“This type of testing is standard protocol and infection containment strategies."

After two residents died in a Fort Lauderdale assisted living facility recently, an investigation showed that construction workers, staff and cooks who were ill were not properly screened and allowed to mix with elderly residents.

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“If you are an operator of one of these facilities, you need to take responsibility to protect your residents," Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference last week. "This is a virus that is in certain communities spreading in Florida, and Broward is one of them and you need to take action to protect your people.”

AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew acknowledged last week that 19 long-term care facilities across the state had confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. The state won’t say where those facilities are located.

The agency also sent an advisory to long-term care facilities advising them that anyone who enters the buildings must wear masks, and gloves should be worn when care is provided to residents. The directive also stresses that people should “continue to perform hand hygiene prior to donning gloves, after removing gloves, and anytime there is contact with the resident environment.”

But on Friday AHCA said it would not fine nursing homes that can’t come into compliance with the requirements.