Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation) today sent a letter to Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew in opposition of the agency’s newly issued guidance reversing regular staff testing requirements for Florida’s assisted-living facilities. Book, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, wrote the following:
I strongly oppose this change in rules and urge an immediate reversal. Absent routine testing, we are putting some of the most vulnerable Floridians in jeopardy. COVID-19 is known to be most serious and deadly for the elderly population and those with preexisting conditions – descriptors which encompass the majority of residents in assisted-living facilities. Therefore, it is not a matter of if but when this insidious virus creeps into these facilities and preventably claims countless lives.
While Florida’s nursing homes still complete routine staff testing under federal requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we must continue to extend this common-sense safety measure to assisted-living facilities as well. By definition, these residents need care and assistance to survive. We cannot condemn these individuals to die preventable deaths from COVID-19 because of lax staff testing requirements. The cost of testing a staff member is miniscule when compared to the loss of a life.
AHCA issued statewide orders mid-June requiring nursing homes and assisted-living facility staff to be routinely tested for COVID-19 every two weeks. As stated in Book’s letter, testing of nursing home staff is federally required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. An alert issued by AHCA to providers stated that “with the expiration of the state Rule 59AER20-4, assisted-living facilities will no longer be required to routinely test staff.” Rule 59AER20-4 expired Sunday, September 13, just as nursing homes and ALFs are reopening to visitors.