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Gov. DeSantis defends Thanksgiving gatherings for the elderly amid COVID-19 pandemic

DeSantis says Floridians need to be able to have family connections.

Despite potential health risks for the elderly, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday defended the prospect of Thanksgiving gatherings for those living within the state’s long-term care facilities.

“We need to be able to have family connections,” DeSantis said. “This is very, very important. Not everyone who is in these facilities is on the brink of passing away.”

The Governor’s remarks came during a roundtable discussion at a Fort Myers long-term care facility. While there, he argued that decisions on health and risk are best made by individuals and their families.

He also cited the increased availability of COVID-19 rapid test kits in Florida nursing homes to support his case.

Florida since late September has received 400,000 rapid-test kits a week from the federal government. The kits have been used to detect COVID-19 infections at schools, senior centers and long-term care facilities.

“Especially as the holidays come, if you have residents who want to go home for holidays, maybe they can have people come visit here,” DeSantis suggested. “We’re going to keep sending these to these facilities, so you can test the visitors and your staff as much as you want to, and we’re going to keep supplying these tests for you.”

DeSantis in recent months has pushed for a more holistic approach to protecting the state’s elderly population.

He encouraged naysayers to look at the “whole enchilada” and be mindful of the emotional tolls of isolation and depression.

“A number of folks who are in these facilities have said: ‘Look I don’t want to get COVID-19 but I want to be able to be with my family. I want a life worth living,’ DeSantis said.

According to the Florida Healthcare Association, there are 691 licensed nursing homes in Florida which house approximately 84,448 beds and roughly 71,000 residents.

According to the latest state health report, 6,591 long-term care residents and staff members have died while infected with the virus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Written By

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 jason@floridapolitics.com or on Twitter at @JasonDelgadoFL.

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