At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis calling for the creation and release of a detailed COVID-19 testing plan for residents and employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Reports show that almost half of all coronavirus related deaths in Florida have been linked to elder care centers.
In his letter, which he sent on Friday, Crist specifically cited the need to implement an efficient, effective, and continued widespread testing plan to protect the state’s vulnerable population as senior communities like those in Pinellas, which have had some of the highest death tolls in the state.
“As our communities continue to combat the threat of coronavirus, it’s clear that rapid, widespread, and repeated testing is the key to keeping Pinellas families safe and bringing an end to this virus. A fact that is especially true for the most vulnerable among us, the senior community and the employees who care for them in nursing homes and other senior care facilities,” said Crist on Monday. “I’m requesting that the governor release a tangible, detailed testing plan to safeguard our older loved ones from this deadly virus. Testing must continue until confidence is restored in the health and well-being of all of our seniors.”
“AARP Florida continues to believe the key to minimizing the impact of this dangerous virus is to test staff, residents, visitors, and vendors to elder-care facilities not just once but repeatedly, as often as possible. Only widespread, repeated testing will work,” said Jeff Johnson, the Florida state director of the AARP. “When one-fiftieth of the population is suffering four-fifths of the deaths, the need for action could scarcely be clearer. It’s common sense to require widespread testing and prevention efforts focused on all elder-care facilities.”
The letter is below.
Dear Governor DeSantis:
I write with deep concern about our loved ones and neighbors who reside in care facilities throughout the state. They are, as you correctly stated, “the most vulnerable population” in our state. As you know, nearly half of all COVID-19-related fatalities reported in Florida have been linked to elder care centers. Between April and May alone, the death toll increased by nearly 600 percent. They are not simply statistics, they are people, leaving behind grieving families distraught that the facilities they trusted to care for them could not keep them safe.
In Pinellas County alone, we have close to 250 long-term care centers, including Freedom Square of Seminole, which has had some of the highest death tolls among nursing homes in the state. I understand that the Florida Department of Health in conjunction with the Florida National Guard is aiming to test all residents and employees of long-term care facilities within the next two weeks. While I wish widescale testing had taken place before we lost so many vulnerable Floridians, I applaud the goal of 100% testing of nursing home and assisted living residents and staff. We must continue these measures every week, until all Americans have confidence that their loved ones in Florida nursing homes are safe.
Successfully executing this ambitious and necessary testing plan will require sourcing materials and reagents, distributing an adequate supply to every care facility in the state, and ensuring personnel and personal protective equipment necessary to administer the tests safely and effectively. And to address concerns Floridians may have about such an undertaking, sunlight is the best disinfectant. As your administration goes about the vital task of testing our most vulnerable, I ask that you please keep the public informed on the specific plan of action and the progress toward this critical testing goal. Publishing specific timelines, metrics, and results would go a long way in shoring up public confidence.