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Florida task force yet to vote on approving visits to long-term care facilities

Group debates whether visitors should be able to touch residents
Posted at 11:05 AM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 18:37:16-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The state task force tabbed with reopening long-term care facilities to visitors met Tuesday afternoon but still did not finalize a plan.

Members met via a video conference call for about two hours.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

The task force was formed earlier this month by Gov. Ron DeSantis to develop guidelines on how to safely allow family members to visit their loved ones in Florida's long-term care facilities.

Visitation at nursing homes and long-term care centers have been prohibited since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

About 83.4 percent of nursing homes in Florida have not had any positive coronavirus cases in the last 14 days, according to Mary Mayhew, the secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Caregiver Mary Daniel
Caregiver Mary Daniel (bottom center) gave an emotional plea to the Florida task force tabbed with developing a plan to open long-term care facilities to visitors during a meeting held Aug. 25, 2020.

There was an emotional moment during Tuesday's meeting on the issue of whether visitors should be allowed to touch residents.

"We will wear a biohazard suit if we have to, to hold their hand and be close to them. It (has been) six months, you guys, (since visits have been allowed.) They need their hands held. They don't need sitting behind a stupid plexiglass shield, and they don't need a stupid shower curtain with arms in it to hug. That's not what they need. They need human touch," said caregiver and task force member Mary Daniel.

RELATED: Group homes in Florida included in long-term care facilities visitor restrictions due to COVID-19

Recommendations under consideration include:

  • Visitation by appointment either indoor in a designated room or outdoor depending on the facility
  • Appropriate training for employees
  • Allow visits if the facility has not had any coronavirus cases in the last 14 days
  • Wearing face masks
  • Social distancing from all other visitors and staff

Tuesday's meeting ended with Mayhew saying the task force still needed 30 minutes to an hour more to approve the official recommendations.

The task force is scheduled to meet again Wednesday at 11 a.m.

If a plan is authorized by the task force, the measure will be sent to DeSantis for approval.