The almost 200,000 Floridians who live in nursing homes are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, and so far, 33 have tested positive. According to the Tampa Bay Times, health officials and Governor Ron DeSantis aren’t saying much more, and that silence has relatives who aren’t allowed to go near their loved ones due to a ban on nursing home visitations incredibly frustrated.
DeSantis still is not releasing location information about nursing homes that have been infected, and according to Brian Lee of Families for Better Care, the state is “playing Russian roulette” with the lives of its seniors.
“This is the worst public health crisis in at least this century,” Lee said. “I stress the word public, because we are all affected. And the public has the right to know if these facilities are spiraling out of control into an outbreak. By not being transparent, it just fuels fear.”
While there’s no evidence yet of a significant outbreak in Florida nursing homes, the unreliability of the data is creating confusion. “Neither DeSantis nor his health administrators have been willing to say whether large numbers of long-term care residents have been tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus,” the Times reports. So far, at least one resident in every one of the 15,000 nursing homes across the U.S. has tested positive for coronavirus.
DeSantis says his refusal to release more information is due to his desire to protect people’s confidentiality. While he appears to be invoking the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which protects patient medical records and privacy, the First Amendment Foundation’s Pamela Marsh says that’s just an excuse to keep vital information secret.
“That information should be made available,” Marsh, the former United States attorney for Northern Florida, told the Herald. “It can’t be business as usual for the families of loved ones in care.”
Read the full report over at the Tampa Bay Times.