Guideline Confusions: Why are facilities still restricting visitation in Florida?
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - WCTV continues to follow the complications that families in Florida face when trying to visit loved ones in long-term care facilities.
Restrictions that were placed at the start of the pandemic have been mostly gone for a year.
But about six months ago, the Delta and Omicron variants led some facilities to start locking down again.
Across Florida, families have started seeing this pop up in assisted living and memory care facilities.
One reason is because in terms of regulation, assisted living and memory care facilities run very differently than nursing homes.
“They’re totally different animals,” Marshall Kapp, Professor Emeritus of FSU’s Geriatric Department, said.
Nursing homes are for people needing medical care on a regular basis.
They take Medicare and Medicaid, which subjects them to federal rules under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
Visitation to these facilities is clear. You must find some way to make visitation happen.
But for assisted living facilities, most are private, and the residents pay the facility to live there.
These facilities are regulated by state agencies, the governor’s office, local health departments and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All have their own rules and while they’re all similar in scope, wording can vary slightly, leading to confusion for facilities and families.
For example, Sandy Poppell’s husband, Dennis, has lived in memory care at St. Augustine Plantation for several years.
Most of 2020 consisted of window visits between the two, but as the months went on, Sandy was allowed back in more and more under the essential caregiver order through Gov. DeSantis’s office.
“I’ve been there for all three meals for at least the last two months,” Poppell said.
However, those visits stopped in late Jan. 2022, after she and her husband both tested positive for COVID-19.
Both are considered fully vaccinated as well.
“I was told by three different people that he would be isolated for five days,” Poppell said.
But on day six, Sandy said she reached out to the facility and was told the timeframe had been extended.
“He’ll be quarantined for 10 days, but you have to wait 14 days before you can get back in. I said ‘Even with a negative test? And I’m an essential caregiver? I still have to wait?’ And I was told yes, I had to wait based on their criteria,” Poppel said.
WCTV reached out to St. Augustine Plantation for an explanation.
They gave us a statement, which read in part, “Visitation will continue to be available for all residents, even if a resident is COVID-positive. We cannot allow visitors who tested positive within the past 14 days, per the CDC’s definition of exposure.”
The facility went on to say there was initial confusion about the procedures and they are working with staff to make sure they have current, accurate information.
“With a lot of the daily functioning operations, we’re looking to the CDC, we’re looking to AHCA, we’re looking to the state department of health and the local department of health. We’re looking to the governor’s office and so, we’re trying to consider all the different sources of information to make sure that we’re not overlooking something and to reconcile them as best we can because they don’t always exactly line up either,” Sandi Poreda with the Florida Senior Living Association said.
The Florida Senior Living Association said that’s where they come in to educate facilities about the latest updates.
“Visitation is probably one of our clearest areas. The state is open for visitation. You have to provide visitation. You’re not allowed to restrict visitation unless you’re talking about COVID-positive or even people with the flu trying to get into the building,” Poreda said.
After her 14 days, Sandy said she was allowed back in to visit Dennis and since then, they have gotten back into a routine.
In this case, the facility was following current CDC guidelines regarding COVID-positive people.
The five-day guideline, she was initially told, is for health care workers who test positive.
After five days, a negative test or no symptoms, they can return to work due to staffing shortages.
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