Power outages may prevent continuous COVID-19 testing in long-term care facilities

nursing homes
Hurricane season begins on Monday, posing potential problems for nursing homes.

Long-term care facilities may not be able to conduct continuous COVID-19 testing during a natural disaster in the event facilities are running on generators.

The uncertainty came to light Thursday during a media roundtable with the Florida Health Care Association when the question was posed by Florida Channel’s Jossie Barroso.

“At this point, I’m sure that we can answer it with certainty,” said Certified Infection Control Specialist A.C. Burke of RB Health Partners.

Burke added that as testing becomes more available and technology advances, testing should become easier during a natural disaster such as a hurricane.

All members of the panel, however, stopped short of confirming  the ability to test continuously during a natural disaster such as a hurricane.

The roundtable comes ahead of the official start of hurricane season on Monday. Members of the FHCA provided updates on the condition of facility generators across the state as well as additional COVID-19  precautionary measures related to hurricane planning.

FHCA Emergency Response Coordinator Bob Asztalos told reporters that all 691 nursing homes in Florida have a generator on-site that should meet cooling requirements in the emergency power plan.

Of those 691 nursing homes, 511 have an upgraded generator approved by the Agency for Health Care Administration.

The status of the remaining generators, however, vary from facility to facility.

Asztalos said that 106 facilities have upgraded generators on site that are awaiting either installation, approval or both, but have the ability to power their facility with a generator.

He also said that 74 facilities have alternative power sources on site and are awaiting upgraded generators, though they can currently power the building if there is an outage.

Of those 74, 8 facilities remain stalled by local permitting but do, however, have a generator on site that can power the building in the interim.

Notably, 10 facility generators are still being reviewed by the ACA for whether they can perform to standard.

“I want to stress that it is important to remember that 100% of the nursing homes have generators on-site to cool their building, Asztalos said.”

Burke also provided insights on the health measure plans facilitates are taking in the event of a hurricane.

“During the pandemic, our focus will be on sheltering in place,” Burke said, explaining that any decision to evacuate would be made in concert with local emergency management.

Burke also stressed the importance of maintaining prevention measures in the event of an evacuation.

“From an infection prevention perspective, though many of the preventive strategies that we have put in pace in our facilities in response to COVID, 19 we need to plan to maintain those prevention measures during an evacuation, Burke said.

Burke added that all staff will be required to wear masks at all times and cloth-based face coverings need to be on hand for resident to prevent transmission.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week forecasted a 60% chance of an above-normal hurricane season.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


One comment

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    May 31, 2020 at 7:14 am

    re headline: “could,” not “may.”

Comments are closed.


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