Some Confusion, Challenges as Florida Nursing Homes Reopen to Visitors

The reopening of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida on Wednesday was met with anticipation and confusion.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the reopening of the centers after months of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has left it up to facilities to have policies for visitation.

Under the state’s rules, a facility can allow visits if they haven’t had a COVID-19 case in 14 days, though exceptions are made for essential or compassionate caregivers if the facility reports a new case. Visitors must wear a mask and maintain social distancing, but they don’t need to be tested.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state would be allowing nursing home visitation again.

The big question for families moving forward is how many facilities in the state are able and ready to allow visits.

Pascal Bergeron, who represents facilities across Broward County through the Florida Assisted Living Association, said loved ones were calling first thing in the morning Wednesday to ask when they could see a family member.

“At our facility, we are allowing visitors. We’ve had a few, we designated an area and we are allowing one visitor at a time and doing a 10 minute disinfection after a visit and so far, it’s been working out well,” Bergeron said. “Our staff has to be tested. Now we’re allowing outsiders in and you don’t know what their status is which puts us in a bind but we don’t have a choice. It is what it isn’t, but we will comply.”

Elizabeth Nazarett had hoped the new rules would allow her to see her mother, who was in hospice care at a nursing home in Hollywood. But because the facility had been dealing with new cases, no visits were allowed.

Late Wednesday, Nazarett’s mother died.

“When I saw my mom a month ago, it wasn’t the same mom that I left in March,” Nazarett said. “It’s painful, it’s sad, and I don’t know what is going to happen.”

The new rules would have allowed for an end-of-care visit no matter if the facility had recent cases.