Gov. DeSantis touts Florida’s elder response as country’s best
Ron DeSantis says Florida has done the most to protect its elderly population. Image via AP.

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Keeping nursing home residents safe has been a number one priority.

As Florida sees more people hospitalized with COVID-19, Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state is continuing to improve hospital availability and protect the elderly.

Emergency department visits with symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu increased throughout June. And while ICUs still have available beds — around 20% are unoccupied — hospitals are having to isolate more individuals who test positive despite entering the facilities for other ailments.

During a Tuesday visit to Miami Care Center, formerly the Pan American Hospital, DeSantis highlighted COVID-19 outpatient nursing home facilities and anticipated manpower assistance from the federal government.

The 12th and latest COVID-19-dedicated nursing home, operated by the Avante Group, opened earlier this month. The 150-bed center plans to bring 100 nurses on board over the next month.

“All in all, I don’t think any other state in the country has done what we’ve done to protect the vulnerable here in the state of Florida,” the Governor said. “This is another big step in that direction, and I think it’s going to be a really important tool to help protect vulnerable folks.”

From the start of the pandemic, the state ordered that hospitals cannot release nursing home residents back to those facilities if they test positive for the virus. With some people testing positive with lingering COVID-19 indicators days or weeks after they seemingly recover, the state began opening the transitional nursing homes that can handle stable coronavirus patients.

“Frankly, we said if there’s any risk that they are positive, they cannot go back,” said Mary Mayhew, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). “We know, not only is that population the most vulnerable to fatality, the residential setting is at greatest risk for rapid transmission.”

Treating someone with COVID-19 requires four times the personnel than treatment would otherwise require, and hospitals are caught out in the low season of their hiring cycle.

The transitional facilities give at-risk nursing home residents “a place to go that is safe, provide relief to the hospitals, relieve some of that capacity from the hospital to the nursing home setting,” said Avante Group Vice President Kimberly Biegasiewicz.

Florida’s request to the federal government for more hospital personnel is being processed, DeSantis said, encouraged by discussions with Vice President Mike Pence over the past week.

Mayhew also highlighted AHCA’s regional approach to communication with local governments.

“Government is not often accused of being nimble, but we have done everything possible to respond timely to the needs and the demands around the state,” she said.

DeSantis and health professionals have repeatedly tried to assuage fears that hospitals are unsafe. Medical experts are reporting that people are delaying entering the hospital until their symptoms worsen, which becomes problematic for heart conditions and other serious illnesses.

“This virus is one part of health,” the Governor said. “There’s a whole host of other things that we’ve also got to be concerned with.”

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 r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Sonja Fitch

    July 7, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Mm and the death rate of covid that age is NOT Fing good! Now the Florida nazis dud Desantis,looting Lenny and cockroach Corcoran are going for our children! May god have mercy on their perverted lying souls!

  • S.B. Anthony

    July 7, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    “All in all, I don’t think any other state in the country has done what we’ve done to protect the vulnerable here in the state of Florida.”

    All those seniors who are not in ACLFs or nursing homes are still locked in their homes. What are you doing for those people while you frolic on the beach, governor?

    And the younger essential workers (in your view, the disposable labor force), are forced to work in unsafe conditions, with no guarantee of adequate PPE or protections for sick pay or sick leave.

    And as hospitals reach capacity, STILL there is insufficient PPE to protect our front line health care workers.

    You and your party are hemorrhaging votes in the absence of any actual governing. You’re all a disgrace.

  • Samantha McVay

    July 8, 2020 at 10:44 am

    This is what I saw when I opened this
    “ Keeping nursing home residents safe has been a number one priority”.

    Help me understand how nursing homes have been a priority. They have had and continue to have inefficient PPE, staff do not need to be tested again if they have tested positive previously and have had 2 negative results. Residents are still required to quarantine so they are basically completely institutionalized. Staff is over worked and continue to be underpaid for the emotional, and physical stress this is causing them and their families . All Facilities are struggling with staffing because the Media condemned SNF from the beginning and praised Hospitals. This article reads as though the Hospitals need a burden lifted from them, why isn’t anyone talk about the SNF burden.

    Having nursing homes set up specifically for covid patients in recovery is great , but if it wasn’t for Covid some of those buildings wouldn’t have patients. While facilities that have had positive cases can’t accept their own LTC patients back.

    That’s a great plan as well now you have LTC residents being shuffled around not knowing if they will be able to return home. You also Have some LTC facilities who are struggling to admit, chancing admitting a false negative, and let’s be honest people aren’t lining up to be admitted and again we can thank the media for that They played a huge part in the SNF Covid stigma. Yet people are having surgeries, back to some routine hospital stays, but the hospitals are over run?

    The Government needs to step in raise the MCD rate, send staff , take control of the disbursement of residents from hospitals to SNF , all SNF not just the cherry picked ones. After all I’m only aware of a handful of facilities that aren’t contracted and accepting MCD patients , and those are basically Medicare dollars . So any way you look at it all SNF are basic government entities WHO NEED support .

    Help me understand this

    “ Keeping nursing home residents safe has been a number one priority“

  • Booner

    July 8, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Gov. Ron DiSantis is a jackass who has fallen in lockstep with Trump’s policy as it lurches like a drunken sailor on a sinking ship taking on water. Florida is the world’s poster child for bad timing, not to mention fudged, missing, and deceptive DOH Covid-19 data reporting. A malady limited to Florida’s GOP has erupted in a pandemic of tone-deaf GOP politicians who fail to hear people calling for a state mask requirement.

    “Gov. DeSaster” poo-poos any danger to the elderly and at-risk population and pats himself on the back for a good job. As we all know through years of scandals, Florida’s regulation of nursing homes has never been a problem to the ALF operators who rake in serious dough to warehouse seniors in smelly, understaffed dormitories. DiSantis could care less and the actions of Florida’s elected Republicans bear this out.

    By pushing for reopening schools in the face of rising Covid rates, without offering guidance as to how to do it in a safe manner, and without meeting the CDC guidelines for re-opening, Gov. Jac-ass continues to confuse and endanger Floridians. In actuality, the school reopening issue is different in each of Florida’s school districts, and it is clear that it is not a one size fits all decision to reopen. To put aside personal safety requirements to goose the economy is a bass-ackwards approach.

    Schools should not reopen until the school district meets the three reopening criteria that demonstrate fewer new infections. Everyone needs to be wearing a mask.

    But now, the curtain is lifting and the stealth agenda is coming into view as Florida’s Covid-19 caseload moves ever higher. The real push is something unspoken but increasingly obvious. The real objective behind Covid-19 strategy is to give up, take the easiest way out, pretend the pandemic doesn’t exist anymore, say its a harmless bug, all in order to cull the elderly and at-risk who have pre-existing conditions because they are useless feeders who consume government resources.

    That’s really behind the push to open the churches, too. Everyone praying, singing, hugging indoors for an extended time. Buzzfeed news carried the story of a 17 year old who caught Covid-19 at a Ft Myers church service and later died in a Miami hospital about a week ago. God called her to the Big House, she trusted the pastor to protect her.

    That’s right. The slow, steady depopulation of the vulnerable will proceed apace throughout Florida and the nation, with schools and churches opening up, regardless of the GRAVE risk to millions of Florida seniors and at-risk residents.

    This is the determination of our leaders. They know the unspoken danger and by their actions turn their backs on public safety for ALL. They would rather start making money again, and let the chips fall where they may. We live or die by the whims of odious Trump, who smells DeSantis what to do. (You get the idea.)

    So when thousands of additional unnecessary hospitalizations, post-Covid complications, and deaths pile up over the coming months, Trump and Desasters say “oh golly gee, that’s too bad, its their own fault for getting exposed, they must be weaklings, or Democrats.”

    Our greedy, short-sighted and heartless political leaders have nothing to offer Floridians except to put them on an ice floe and cut them adrift. Rick Scott, overwhelmingly recognized by a majority of Floridians as our official state reptile, is on the shore waving goodbye next to Trump and DeSantis.

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