As COVID Cases Rise, So Do Concerns in Nursing Homes

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As the cases rise, so do the concerns in nursing homes and long-term care facilities that have been at the center of the outbreak. Advocates like AARP say even the most basic protections are not in place.

NBC 6 anchor Sheli Muñiz spoke to AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson.

JOHNSON: As we have seen the cases grow in the general population, we know it's just a matter of time before they get a spike again in long-term care facilities -- that's where our most vulnerable population is. We’ve seen since the state started reporting fatalities in long-term care facilities, about 62% of deaths statewide have been in these nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

SHELI: State officials are now going to require staff to get tested every two weeks, is that enough?

JOHNSON: No, I don't think it is. I mean, it's a good step forward, so I'm glad we're at least to this point, but the reality is, a lot can happen within that two weeks. 

SHELI: So, what else can we be doing? Nursing homes or the state?

JOHNSON: Well, I think that we need the state of Florida and Washington to work together to make sure we have enough testing, so we can get closer to a daily test. We also need to make sure that those facilities have what they need in terms of protective equipment. We also need to make sure facilities are doing everything they can to drill their staff on what they can do to keep people safe and free of infection.

SHELI: The AARP has been in constant contact with families who have lost loved ones. What are they telling you?

JOHNSON: It's heartbreaking. Early on people were finding out through the news that there were cases in the facilities where their loved one was, now frankly, we're not only hearing those stories about the coronavirus but now the long-term isolation, it's been months where they haven’t been able to see each other face-to-face.

SHELI: So what can we do if we have loved ones there?

JOHNSON: Well, obviously work with the facility to do everything you can to do virtual visitation, through FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. We are asking the facilities and we want Washington to help us make sure that facilities do everything they can to facilitate that.

SHELI: Jeff, just curious, is any state doing it right?

JOHNSON: Good question. No, frankly. I wish I could point to someone who is doing it really well. In some respects, Florida has weathered this better than some others, in other respects we've fallen behind. So, we're hopeful that Florida can actually be a leader because we're a place where a lot of people retire to.

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