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Coronavirus in Florida

$42M price tag for coronavirus testing in nursing homes, assisted living facilities

Nearly half of Florida COVID-19 deaths are tied to long-term care facilities.

It will cost nearly $42.3 million to conduct COVID-19 testing in every Florida nursing home and assisted living facility, according to data released Wednesday by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

Organization leaders favor testing all staff and residents, but say it’s not a cost they can bear alone.

“For months now, we have been advocating for expanded and priority testing in long-term care facilities to protect our residents and caregivers, but this is a significant undertaking and cost for them to shoulder on their own,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO for AHCA/NCAL.

“Assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct aid, despite also serving vulnerable seniors. While building on support received from HHS, we are asking for additional consideration for all long term care facilities, whether it be in regard to additional testing, personal protective equipment or funding.”

The national organizations earlier this month released estimates that it would cost $440 million nationally to test all staff and residents just in nursing homes. Data released Wednesday shows including assisted living communities would boost that number by another $232 million. And that’s just to test staff and residents once.

In Florida alone, the cost estimate comes in at $42,277,250 for initial testing.

Florida has 701 nursing homes and 3,405 assisted living communities.

Nursing homes still bear the bulk of costs because of the higher ratio of staff to residents. A total of 73,312 individuals live in Florida nursing homes, which employ 95,390 workers.

By comparison, 84,671 live in assisted living communities, which employ 34,142 staff.

Assisted living communities by definition don’t provide round-the-clock care, but still offer individually centered care to residents in need. Nursing homes offer skilled nursing rehabilitation.

The COVID-19 crisis has stressed both types of facilities, as it poses the greatest threat to older individuals. In Florida, close to 84.2% of known deaths have been individuals age 65 or older.

“With seniors among those most susceptible to the virus, the assisted living profession, in particular, is facing historic challenges when it comes to our most sacred charge – the health and safety of our residents,” said Scott Tittle, executive director for to NACL.

“Unfortunately, shortages of testing and PPE continue to be a challenge nationwide and because assisted living communities are not medical facilities, they have not been prioritized for testing or supplies. We encourage our elected leaders to prioritize our most vulnerable and those who care for them in long-term care settings as they allocate these critical resources.”

The costs prompted the AHCA/NACL last week to plea for better federal funding to cover tests, which still cost $150 each.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has attributed success in flattening the curve to an early focus on isolating nursing home populations.

As of Tuesday, a total of 1,089 of the reported 2,259 Florida resident deaths, more than 48.2%, were residents or staff of long-term care facilities.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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