Coronavirus restrictions eased at Florida's long-term care facilities
For nearly two years Florida’s long-term care residents and their loved ones have been strained by visitation restrictions meant to protect them from the coronavirus.
Guidelines released Friday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now allow all visitors, excluding those that have recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
This ends a long and emotional period for those with family and friends in Florida’s care centers throughout the pandemic. For months, visitors were kept out of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Some facilities have continued to not allow visitors or greatly restricted access since the state started allowing restricted visits last fall, said Jeff Johnson, state director for AARP. He said this is good news for families who have struggled with restrictions.
Relationships with family and friends are important for the emotional and physical health of those who live in long-term care facilities, he said. Changes in visitation have been challenging for many nursing home residents over the pandemic.
"It seems as though this is a move to say the pandemic is certainly not over, but we need to adjust to whatever a new normal looks like."
However, Johnson remains concerned about vaccination rates among staff at nursing home facilities. Nearly 59 percent of the state’s nursing home workers received the COVID-19 vaccine as of Oct. 17, according to a report from AARP.
While the vaccination rate has improved, Florida is still lagging behind other states in long-term staff vaccination. Johnson said long-term care facilities can do better.
"It certainly is a concern that as we reopen these facilities that we still have so many staff who have not been vaccinated,” he said. "It is critically important to the safety of the people these folks are working to care for them to take the precaution of getting vaccinated and keeping the virus out of these facilities."
Moving forward, he said, facility owners and administrators should make sure staff members are "fully supported in getting vaccinated."
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