As state reworks nursing home COVID-19 data, Gov. DeSantis open to more transparency

Doctor and senior man wearing facemasks nuring home long-term care facility, old man
Nearly 3,000, if not more, long-term care facility residents and staff have tested positive.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will review how the state reports COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities after fielding questions from reporters on the thoroughness of those reports.

The Department of Health (DOH) both beefed up how it displayed cases in individual facilities and reigned in the data in its — now daily instead of twice-daily — COVID-19 reports on Monday. Ahead of the press conference, the department released its modified daily report but had not yet uploaded the improved list of facilities, uploading it some time after the press availability began.

“What you’re telling me is the form isn’t in a way that’s as helpful, so I’m going to look at that,” DeSantis said. “I don’t know exactly the form it is, but I gave specific instructions to say if there’re cases in specific facilities, put those facilities out there and the date that these cases are arising, and I think that that’s very important.”

The new table achieves that by listing the facility names and when the latest update was, and tallying the number of positive residents, the number of positive residents transferred out and the number of staff that have tested positive. However, during the conference, DeSantis said he supports releasing the number of deaths at each facility as well.

The new list of facilities also doesn’t make up for the daily report, which removed the total amount of cases in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Instead, it refers inquiring individuals to the reworked list, but the data there is not cumulative and only reflects the current number of residents and staff suffering from the illness.

According to Sunday’s report, there have been 2,934 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff of long-term care facilities. As of Monday, 319 have died statewide, an increase of eight over Sunday’s report.

Of the nearly 700 long-term care facilities, the state reports cases in 397. Long-term care facilities include nursing homes, assisted living facilities and facilities for people with intellectual disabilities.

The elderly and people with underlying health conditions, including obesity, are most at risk for extreme cases of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, DeSantis ordered Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to begin publishing the list of facilities with positive residents, which the Governor said the Surgeon General did not want to do to protect patient privacy. Already, the state had required those facilities to report to staff, residents and their families when someone who had been on site tested positive.

“He did not want to do it because he was worried about patient privacy and how media may descend on a nursing home, and I think that that’s a legitimate concern, because I know how irresponsible some people can be,” DeSantis said. “But at the same time, I was concerned if one nursing home didn’t inform the family like they were required to do and we could have just simply put it out, then maybe it’s better to just put it out.”

Early in Florida’s outbreak, the Governor restricted visitation to long-term care facilities. DeSantis has touted that action as part of why the pandemic didn’t reach the levels some models predicted it would.

“We’re talking about a lot of things, we’re doing all this stuff with the nursing homes. You look at our rates in these long-term care facilities, compared — New York’s had like 3,000, 4,000 deaths just in long-term care facilities, so this has been a big priority for us from the beginning,” he said.

In Florida, 32,138 people have tested positive for COVID-19, including 848 non-Floridians. People aged 65 and older make up 25% of cases among Florida residents but 82% of the 1,088 fatalities.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704