As President Trump calls to block funding for states that invest in more testing and contact tracing, Florida’s nursing homes and ALFs face a 153% spike in new COVID-19 cases.
FLORIDA — On Monday, the trade association for nonprofit nursing homes in Florida sounded the alarm: Between June 30 and July 20, new COVID-19 infections among residents at nursing homes and assisted facilities rose by 2,868 confirmed cases or a whopping 153%.
At the same time, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, cases among staff rose to 3,784, or 126%.
In fact, the number of infected residents and staff at elder care facilities has more than doubled, said Katie Smith Sloan, president, and CEO of LeadingAge, an association of 5,600 not-for-profit organizations that advance policies to support people as they age.
Most significantly, of the 5,072 fatalities in Florida, 2,400 — or 47% — have been among residents or staff at long-term care facilities.
According to LeadingAge, if current trends continue, by November 1 the number of fatalities from coronavirus in the state will rise to more than 19,000, including an estimated 10,000 older Floridians.
A Category 5 Disaster
Speaking to reporters during a teleconference, Smith Sloan called the situation a “category five-level emergency bearing down on millions of older adults in Florida and across the United States.’’
“For months we have been sending out a warning to the federal government that this crisis is not over. We need real solutions now, not a patchwork of policies that allow the pandemic to grow more deadly and dangerous,” Smith Sloan said.
During the teleconference, she pleaded with Congress to reject Trump’s call to block funding for states that invest in more testing and contact tracing, asking what kind of message that sends “to older adults who are so vulnerable to COVID-19, and to their families.’’
Problems with Testing
According to LeadingAge, most of the residents of nursing homes and ALFs who have been infected with COVID-19 got it from staff and vendors. But although the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid recommends that nursing homes test staff at least once a week, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that nursing homes must obtain results within 48 hours, Florida requires that all staff be tested every two weeks, and the results normally take at least 72 hours.
Failure in Florida
Apart from the high death rate among seniors in the state, Florida nursing homes and ALFs face a “perfect storm” of problems, from shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) to seriously strained staffing levels, as more staff members test positive for COVID-19.
According to LeadingAge, due to COVID-19-related increasing costs for staffing, if the state and federal government stop paying for bimonthly testing of staff, it will cost facilities $25,000 to $300,000 per month.
Senior advocates are now looking for federal response and for Congress to take concerted action by providing emergency help.
“We don’t know what comes next if the state-funded testing ends in September,” says Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, as he called on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott to help create legislation that could offset the increased costs associated with the pandemic.