Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is working on plans to allow family members to visit residents of long-term care facilities.
At a meeting in Tallahassee Wednesday, DeSantis said there's no timetable for allowing family visits at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but said it's important to both residents and their families.
"Having the isolation does come at a psychological and social cost," DeSantis said. "This is an issue and we can't just turn a blind eye."
In mid-March, DeSantis banned nursing home visitations amid the coronavirus outbreak, and said Wednesday it was the right move but that there was a responsibility to try to make visitations work.
"We've gotta figure out a way to give some folks hope and be able to see their family," DeSantis said. "These are folks who I think really could use a psychological boost and to be able to see family again would be a good thing."
DeSantis said safety protocols would need to be in place before visitations would be allowed.
"I want to be able to know that we have procedures in place that if someone goes to visit their mother that two weeks later we're not gonna have 50 infections," he said. "I'm not gonna sign off unless I'm convinced it's gonna be safe."
Florida Department of Health figures released Wednesday showed that 776 patients and employees have died at the state's nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
According to the Florida Health Care Association, a trade group, there are 700 nursing homes and 3,100 ALFs in the state caring for 155,000 people. The facilities employ 200,000 people.
DeSantis said the state is working on expanding COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities, and working to open additional facilities where they can safely isolate residents with COVID-19 and virus symptoms.
When a nursing home is found to have an outbreak, the state sends a health department team to work with the staff. The governor has also sent National Guard teams to nursing homes around the state to test employees and patients for the virus.