Ron DeSantis issues restrictions on visitors to nursing homes amid coronavirus threat

People who have traveled internationally are barred from visiting facilities for 14 days.

The state is limiting access to facilities that house elderly residents to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the emergency measures Wednesday afternoon, after eight new cases of the disease, known as COVID-19, showed up in the state late yesterday. His administration is temporarily restricting visitation to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family care homes, long-term care homes and adult group homes.

The people not allowed to visit these facilities for the time being include people infected with COVID-19 and those showing signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection. Someone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for disease is prohibited from visiting a facility for at least two weeks. Also barred for at two weeks are those who have traveled internationally, taken a cruise, anyone who has been in a community with confirmed community spread of coronavirus and anyone who lives in a community where there’s confirmed community spread.

Florida saw eight new cases of the disease, known as COVID-19, pop up late Tuesday. Of those, seven are Florida residents. Three are from Collier County, two from Pinellas County, and one each from Nassau, Pasco and Pasco counties. A Georgia resident is currently in Alachua County.

“We’ve had several passengers, not just in Florida, but in the U.S. have recently developed symptoms that have confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, including of all the positive cases in Florida, 10 of the positive cases have stemmed from this travel on the Nile River,” he said. “And then five of the eight new cases the Department of Health announced yesterday was connected to travel on the Nile.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert on the federal Coronavirus Task Force, said Tuesday Florida is one of four states with “community spread” of the disease and therefore elevated risk. But DeSantis’s administration takes exception to that.

DeSantis says he spoke to Fauci Tuesday night, but because that three-person cluster in Broward County work for a cruise ship company they are not examples of community spread. 

The governor’s office argues because the three workers at the port work for the same company, in the same location, and all tested positive for COVID-19, it does not meet the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control’s definition for community spread. How the first person of those workers got infected is unclear and it’s unknown if public health officials know that information.

“We were cited as one of the states, we were number four for infections, but we were pretty far below the top three, but they cited us for taking some of the mitigation steps that we’re doing,” he said. “So, we’re working very hard to isolate the cases as they come in, contain the spread throughout Florida, but also taking steps to mitigate any potential damage if you end up having a situation where you do have verified community spread.”

DeSantis says he’s also given Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch approval to limit visitation to the state’s prison facilities. He says he expects that to happen down the line. 

The Board of Governors directed all state universities Wednesday to make plans to transition to remote and online instruction as quickly as possible. Several state colleges and universities had already put out guidance about the status of on-campus classes and gatherings in the wake of the spread of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected]


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