Is this enough?: 32,000 tests performed to protect nearly 152,000 vulnerable residents

Instead of widespread testing at long-term care facilities, Florida implements surveillance testing

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said long-term care facilities are the tip of the spear, yeat as vulnerable Florida residents continue to die during the coronavirus pandemic, some of the relatives of the victims continue to complain that there isn’t enough testing.

DeSantis boasts he deployed 50 mobile testing teams with the Florida National Guard and Department of Health personnel that have tested more than 32,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities throughout Florida.

State records show there are 151,724 people living at 4,480 licensed long-term care facilities. It’s unclear how many employees these facilities have. According to the Florida Health Care Association, the long-term care facilities support 287,298 jobs. That’s about 440,000 residents and staff. Are 32,000 tests enough?

“This has been helpful at identifying clusters and being able to minimize further spread,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the state has been conducting surveillance testing. The state’s approach to testing at long-term care facilities, he said, is considered a “representative sample." It is not the widespread repeat testing that the families of the victims want.

“We want to test as many people as we can," DeSantis said. "But we have 4400 facilities, so I don’t want to give false hope.”

After suspending visitations for about two months, state officials required universal face masks and hospital testing before being discharged. DeSantis has now ordered long-term care facility employees to visit testing sites for bi-weekly coronavirus tests.

“I think where Florida has really been innovative is establishing COVID-dedicated nursing homes, so these are nursing homes that have the ability to properly isolate with negative pressure rooms,” DeSantis said, adding the state contracted with Dolphin Pointe Health Care in Jacksonville.

Despite the efforts, 814 coronavirus disease patients’ deaths are linked to long-term care facilities in Florida and about 50% of those deaths were in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the Department of Health’s Thursday morning report.

DeSantis has said there is a handful of facilities that have not complied with regulations and the majority of the outbreaks are related to asymptomatic employees.

With the reopening of some non-essential businesses on Monday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he is going to be working with DeSantis to improve efforts at long-term care facilities.

“There could be new tests,” Gimenez said. “New tests come out every day.”

About the Authors:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.