long term care

After nearly five months, families are demanding the state allow some form of in-person visitation in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But their push comes as the state continues to be a coronavirus hotspot, with long-term care residents most at-risk. Officials are looking for a solution.

Officials in Florida say cases of the coronavirus are continuing to decline, an indication that efforts to halt the spread of the disease are working. In Miami-Dade County, Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners Tuesday, "I am pleased to announce it appears we have leveled off."

In some nursing homes, 100% of the residents are positive for the coronavirus. That's by design. These facilities have volunteered to devote part or all of their buildings exclusively to treating COVID-19 patients, who bring in more government money. But to make room for them, the original residents can be forced out of the places they've called home.

COVID-19 Numbers Now Spiking Inside Tamarac Nursing Home

Jul 31, 2020

Older COVID-positive patients who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are being sent to Florida nursing homes after a hospital discharge to recover. They need to test negative twice before they can return to their residences.

These so-called isolation centers, though, already have COVID-19 outbreaks among permanent residents.

One of these — Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, had six COVID-19 patients when we previously reported about the center. As of July 28, it has at least 41.

Seema Verma

The Trump administration has announced plans to require certain nursing homes to test staff “and visitors” for COVID-19 once a week and opened the door to again allowing visitation at the homes. 

Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday night that the administration wants to require nursing homes in states with a minimum 5 percent COVID-19 positivity rate to test nursing home staff and visitors once a week.

Florida has 19 COVID isolation centers, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA. These are nursing homes or long-term care facilities that are receiving money from the state to take in people who have COVID-19. They take care of a patient after a hospital discharge until they’re ready to return to their own residences.

And some of these isolation centers have had high numbers of COVID-related infections and deaths before receiving new patients with the disease.

nursing home bed and resident's walker

Staff members at nursing facilities across the state that have agreed to care for long-term care residents with COVID-19 are beginning to test positive for the virus.

senior citizen with hands folded

COVID-19 test kits sent to nursing homes and assisted living facilities are for employees, not residents, the state said Thursday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis
News Service of Florida

More than 120,000 staff members of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been tested for COVID-19 during the past week under a pair of emergency rules, and about 2.8 percent have tested positive, Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Wednesday. 

Twenty-one staff members and 10 residents at a nursing home in Lady Lake have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state data.


In an attempt to increase hospital capacity, Medicaid officials have agreed to waive regulations that require hospitals to obtain prior authorization before transferring patients into long-term care facilities.

The Agency for Health Care Administration sent an alert Monday announcing that it was “waiving service authorization requirements” hospitals were required to obtain prior to transferring patients out of their facilities.

More States Allowing In-Person Nursing Home Visits

Jul 13, 2020

States across the country are beginning to roll back heart-wrenching policies instituted when the coronavirus pandemic began and allow in-person visits at nursing homes and assisted living centers, offering relief to frustrated families.

Concern over the spread of the coronavirus has some families opting to move elderly parents out of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

More than a third of COVID-19 deaths in the United States so far happened at nursing homes.

Now Congress is demanding answers from five of the companies that run them, including one with 69 facilities in Florida. 

Shanna LaFountain has been a nursing assistant in New England for 20 years. About two months ago, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, she stopped working.

"It was an extremely hard decision," she said.

LaFountain has three children and made the decision once their schools closed and their learning went online.

"My son was not answering teachers, not doing assignments," she said. "I had to be home with my children."

The National Institutes of Health has halted its study of hydroxychloroquine, a drug President Donald Trump has promoted as a possible treatment for COVID-19 and once claimed to be taking himself.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the agency said that although it did not appear hydroxychloroquine caused harm to patients in the study, it was also "very unlikely to be beneficial."

Across the United States, nursing homes trying to protect their residents from the coronavirus eagerly await boxes of masks, eyewear and gowns promised by the federal government. But all too often the packages deliver disappointment — if they arrive at all.

Some contain flimsy surgical masks or cloth face coverings that are explicitly not intended for medical use. Others are missing items or have far less than the full week's worth of protective equipment the government promised to send. Instead of proper medical gowns, many packages hold large blue plastic ponchos.

This 2019 photo provided by the family shows Joe Sullivan, right, of the Chicago-area, with his brother, Neil. When COVID-19 began spreading across the country, Neil prayed it wouldn’t hit Elisabeth Ludeman Developmental Center - where 346 people live in
Family photo

Neil Sullivan was angry, frustrated and crushed with guilt. His brother Joe was rushed by ambulance from a home for people with developmental disabilities to an emergency room with a possible case of the coronavirus.

Like many long-term care facilities, VA nursing homes haven't allowed in-person visitation since early March. The separation has been hard on veterans and their families.

Newly released data from the U.S. government show that nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 and more than 60,000 have fallen ill. These figures, however, don't account for all nursing homes across the country.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, about 80% of nursing homes nationwide reported data to the CDC as is now required. The remaining 20% could face fines if they don't comply.

State Looks To Head Off COVID-19 In Long Term Care

Apr 3, 2020

Florida health officials said Thursday that preventing “community spread” of the novel coronavirus through the state’s long-term care industry has become a top concern.

Donna Nickerson spent her last working years as the activity and social services director at a Turlock, Calif., nursing home.

But when she developed Alzheimer's disease and needed that kind of care herself, she and her husband couldn't afford it: A bed at a nearby home cost several thousand dollars a month.

"I'm not a wealthy man," said Nickerson's husband Mel, a retired California State University-Stanislaus professor. "There's no way I could pay for that."

At his website Our Health Policy Matters, Paul Gionfriddo takes a look at which columns attract the fewest readers.  According to Gionfriddo, readership drops when he posts about Medicare, long term care and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.