On Saturday, April 18, the Florida Department of Health released a list of long-term care facilities that purports to identify “COVID-19 positive reports in staff and residents … from March 2, 2020 to date.” About 30 of the nearly 700 members of the Florida Assisted Living Association are on that list.
Unfortunately, we have determined that there are numerous errors on the list.
We agree that posting a list such as this is intended to provide critical information that families of residents and community members want and deserve. Releasing this information will go a long way to enhancing confidence and ensuring transparency during this health crisis. However, it is absolutely essential that this information be accurate. From what we have seen so far, this is not the case. We have identified several instances of ALFs that are on the list but have not had a single case of COVID-19 infection. In one instance, an ALF may have been put on the list because a third-party vendor who had visited the facility later tested positive, but there was no transmission of the virus. Third-party health care services to meet the medical needs of residents is another entry point of potential infections in our communities.
While releasing a list of long-term care facilities with cases of coronavirus infection is important, it is even more important that the public can rely on a fully accurate list — and it is just as important that facilities are not tainted by false identifications. We implore the Department of Health to take every step possible to ensure this list’s accuracy.
We also want to express our gratitude for the continued effort of local Emergency Operation Centers throughout Florida which have worked to supply personal protection equipment (PPEs) when facilities struggle to obtain them from state and national shortages. This has and will continue to help us tremendously in protecting our staff members who are working so diligently in providing care to our residents while also helping to prevent community spread of the coronavirus among our residents. Unfortunately, many facilities continue to struggle to keep an adequate supply of PPEs. We hope this will be corrected quickly.
Perhaps the top weapon in this pandemic war is testing – especially now that we know that some people may be infected and communicable but asymptomatic. The limitations on testing have been one of the greatest impediments to keeping COVID-19 out of our long-term care facilities or controlling its spread. We are grateful that the Governor has committed Strike Teams from the National Guard to conduct aggressive testing in areas and at facilities that are particularly at risk. We welcome this attention — and hope that more will take place quickly across our state.