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AHCA pushes nursing homes to follow Florida guidelines, allow visitation

If AHCA finds places aren't complying with Gov. DeSantis' order, the current guidelines will be revised and made mandatory for nursing homes across Florida.

TAMPA, Fla. — Weeks after visitors were allowed back into long-term care facilities, families are still running into trouble.

"People that were requiring social distancing, people that were saying that we did not qualify to be an essential caregiver," Mary Daniel said.

She's received the bulk of those complaints. The Jacksonville native is one of seven on the board that created the rules to reinstate visitation. She was chosen after taking a job as a dishwasher at her husband's memory care facility in order to see him. 

"I do understand that there's a risk, but my husband is dying. He is not getting out of there alive and I do believe there is something about the quality of life over the quantity of life," Daniel said.

Under the Agency for Healthcare Administration's rules for visitation, anyone can qualify to be an essential caregiver. 

"An essential caregiver is anyone that can provide one of two people who provide emotional support. That's all it needs to be," Daniel said.

That's why AHCA sent this letter to all long-term care facilities in the state, saying they have to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order.

Each resident is allowed up to two essential caregivers and two compassionate care visitors. They are allowed to visit any facility regardless of whether the facility has had COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days.

"It can be done safely," Dr. Jill Roberts with USF Public Health said. 

The infectious disease expert says nursing homes should be complying with the order, but proper precautions have to be in place.

"The likelihood of there being a COVID-19 that gets into a nursing home right now is at a much, much lower level than we were talking about weeks ago. So this is really the time to do this and actually go ahead and go see loved ones. The reality is we may be looking at a different picture of COVID-19 in the next few months," Roberts said.

If AHCA finds many places aren't complying with DeSantis' order, Daniel says the current guidelines will be revised and made mandatory for nursing homes across the state.

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