Democratic lawmakers want increased ‘transparency’ on nursing home coronavirus spread

US state flag of Florida waving in the wind with a positive Covid-19 blood test tube. 3D illustration concept for blood testing for diagnosis of the new Corona virus.
Democrats, DeSantis diverge on specifics.

Florida Democrats on Thursday pressed the Governor to disclose more information about nursing homes being impacted by coronavirus.

Sen. Gary Farmer and Rep. Wengay Newton, joined by members of the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans, made the latest Democratic case against DeSantis’ crisis response.

As of the end of day Wednesday, 1,332 cases of COVID-19 were in nursing homes.

However, specific location data is not provided by the Department of Health, with the DeSantis administration contending that it’s enough that staffers and patients in the facilities know COVID-19 is an issue.

“That information,” said Farmer, “is being withheld right now.”

DeSantis has committed to sending “strike teams” from the Florida National Guard to test seniors in facilities; however, that does not address the reporting problem.

Farmer noted that nursing homes wanted “sovereign immunity” protections from criminal and civil liability claims in the crisis, a contention he described as “outrageous.”

“It smacks of chutzpah,” Farmer said, going on to define the term.

“We’re in the midst of a public health emergency,” Farmer said, saying “transparency” was “critical” to stopping the spread in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“The number has tripled in just one week,” the Senator added, noting facilities in Fort Lauderdale (Atria Senior Living’s Atria Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale) and Live Oak had coronaclusters, with 51 at the latter facility.

“Information and data,” said Farmer, is being “concealed by this industry.”

Rep. Newton noted that of the 155,000 in nursing homes and facilities, only 1,332 have tested positive.

“That’s one percent of the people,” Newton said. “But anybody at risk is one too many if you ask me.”

Community spread seems to be popping up in a series of these facilities, even weeks into the crisis.

A nursing home in Pinellas County transferred nearly two dozen residents to Pinellas County hospitals Tuesday night, most of whom tested positive for COVID-19 and all of whom were presumed positive.

Also this week: A South Florida veterans’ nursing home has had 12 residents test positive for COVID-19, including one who died, according to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Bill Sauers, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, noted the erosion of protections for nursing home residents over the decades.

“There seems to be a disregard for these lives because they’re closer to death than many others,” Sauers said, urging a “voice for the voiceless.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • PrivacyPlease

    April 16, 2020 at 11:21 am

    These Democrats are saying that some one’s health “privacy” is no longer relevant in Florida, after we fought so hard to get it.

    This is nothing more than another political attack on Gov. DeSantis, that could result in the loss of one’s rights of privacy.

    It is unfortunate that many Democrats today, want us to resemble China, more than the U.S., while at the same time accusing Pres. Trump and Gov. DeSantis, of trying to be dictators.

    Sad that the left “can never let a good crisis go by” without trying to get things that were always on their wish list, but in ordinary times were totally unacceptable.

  • BlueHeron

    April 16, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    What the previous post fails to realize is that the request for information in no way violates the HIPAA privacy laws in place. HIPAA relates to each individual resident and there is nobody on the plant asking for the personal information of a specific individual. It is up to the family as to whether or not they wish to make that information public. Your “outrage” is ignorant, sad and stunningly misplaced. I won’t even address the rest of your bs.

    “However, specific location data is not provided by the Department of Health, with the DeSantis administration contending that it’s enough that staffers and patients in the facilities know COVID-19 is an issue.”
    I am apoplectic about the fact that it’s really all about the money. There’s A LOT to be made and it’s far too easy for these SLUM LORDS influencing legislation, laws and all regulation risking the lifes of our most delicate of populations. Let’s not forget about the front line staff. Lives have been lost because of their greed, callous indifference and total lack of empathy.

    DeSantis OWNS this horror show 1000%. Illness, pain, suffering and even death is happening on his watch. He greets this situation with indifference. His stunning lack of caring, empathy and sympathy is costing lives and is causing epic levels of concern and heartbreak for family and friends of affected individuals. Strike teams. Seriously? Why do we have to hope that should anything happen at any given facility, that the local media or a family member bring it to the attention of the public?
    I am sure that the Governor, legislature and industry are all upstanding Christians and pro-life. I guess they know what’s best.

    My story…
    I have skin in this game. A much loved family member with dementia. She would never know what covid is, how deadly it is and be aware enough to notify her family. The same can be said for the vast majority of residents in her facility. Fortunately, we are nearby and are in contact via phone, mail and numerous window visits which is the only way we can see her. I am in contact with other staff via phone as well as the Nursing Director. All of whom know who I am. I have been informed in great detail what the protocols are during this time and if they are well supplied, etc… Nothing is guaranteed at any facility but I am so thankful that our facility is only 100 beds and is known to be “hoidy toidy”. We are NOT a family of means. Not even close so we didn’t have to “buy” our way in financially or in any other way. In addition, it has an excellent rating from the Dept of Health as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Recent and comprehensive inspections with zero violations. Clearly, this is the exception to the rule.
    While “shopping” for the forever home, it took me two weeks (full time) to find a facility that didn’t literally terrify me. The one I finaly chose was #16 on my list. I brought some education with me and asked all of the right questions. They had no problem answering all questions and had the documents to back it up. I was tenancious, educated and essentially had to kill myself finding a place of high quality. No small amount of luck was helpful. Not everyone has an advocate.It shouldn’t have been this hard. Many are alone in the world or have family who just don’t give a damn. Nobody is advocating for them. They are being abused. What’s a few dead old people. No big deal. Just “culling”. There’s always another warm body waiting for a bed.

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