Sen. Lauren Book penned a letter to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) demanding the agency reinstate mandatory COVID-19 testing for staff at assisted-living facilities (ALFs).
The state-approved rules in June requiring staff at ALFs and nursing homes to be tested every two weeks. Nursing homes will still be required to test staff under federal rules. But a state order mandating the same for ALFs expired this past weekend.
“I strongly oppose this change in rules and urge an immediate reversal,” Book wrote in a letter to AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew.
“Absent routine testing, we are putting some of the most vulnerable Floridians in jeopardy. COVID-19 is known to be most serious and deadly for the elderly population and those with preexisting conditions — descriptors that encompass the majority of residents in assisted-living facilities. Therefore, it is not a matter of if, but when this insidious virus creeps into these facilities and claims countless lives.”
Florida has not seen the same level of nursing home deaths as New York did. Those deaths caused the COVID-19 death toll inside New York city to surge earlier this year.
Still, Book argues the ALF requirements should continue to ensure seniors are protected as the state begins to reopen and flu season closes in.
“While Florida’s nursing homes still complete routine staff testing under federal requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we must continue to extend this common-sense safety measure to assisted-living facilities as well,” Book argued.
“By definition, these residents need care and assistance to survive. We cannot condemn these individuals to die preventable deaths from COVID-19 because of lax staff testing requirements. The cost of testing a staff member is minuscule when compared to the loss of a life.”
The state will still look to make testing available for ALF patients. In early September, Gov. Ron DeSantis began allowing families to visit their relatives inside those facilities.
Book represents Senate District 32 and chairs the Senate Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.