Florida released the names of 303 nursing homes where staff or patients have been tested positive for the coronavirus.
The seven-page list released Saturday evening names nursing homes and long-term care facilities in 45 of the state's 67 counties. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said while patient names won't be released, he thought it was important for families to know which facilities have had positive cases.
“I told the surgeon general from the beginning that we want to put as much information out as we can.” DeSantis told reporters before the list was released. “It is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.”
Facilities already were required to notify all residents, staff and families once there is a positive test.
“We have no reason to think that that wasn't done, we know it was done most of the time, but at the same time if you have one incident and a week from now they don't follow through with that, I don't want to be in a situation where the families don't know,” DeSantis said.
As of Saturday evening, there were 1,694 cases and 169 deaths among staff and residents in Florida's nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the state Department of Health. Overall, Florida has had about 26,000 cases and 764 deaths, according to numbers released Sunday.
The counties with the most facilities on the list include Miami-Dade with 54, Broward with 39 (including Atria Willow Wood, a Fort Lauderdale nursing home which has confirmed seven coronavirus-related deaths) and Palm Beach with 36.
The update comes as DeSantis prepares to announce the members of a task force that will make recommendations on how to begin reopening the state.
Last week, tensions rose between DeSantis and the Miami Herald after the Herald filed a public records lawsuit seeking information about which elderly-care facilities in Florida had coronavirus cases.
The Herald accused DeSantis' general counsel of pressuring the law firm that was representing them, Holland & Knight, to drop the suit.
A spokeswoman for the governor said there had been no effort to strong-arm the Herald, but the firm, which regularly does work for the state, did indeed abandon the lawsuit.
“We are disappointed that the governor’s office would go so far as to apply pressure on our legal counsel to prevent the release of public records that are critical to the health and safety of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Miami Herald publisher and executive editor Aminda Marqués González.
“We shouldn’t have had to resort to legal action in the first place. Anyone with a relative in an elder care facility has a right to know if their loved ones are at risk so they can make an informed decision about their care.”
The list that was finally released by DeSantis identifies which facilities have been affected and what counties they pertain to; it does not include information about how many residents or staff are infected in each home.