LAKELAND, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday spoke about the need to start working on plans to safely open long-term care facilities so families can see their loved ones. The governor also discussed the need to get all residents tested.
But some administrators say testing isn’t happening fast enough or at all in their facilities.
So where is that help going? That is what many loved ones like Dana Faison, whose mom is in a Polk County nursing home, are asking.
"I’m really worried. My mom has asthma, COPD,” Dana Faison explained to 10Investigates' Jennifer Titus.
Coralean Faison is a resident at Scott Lake Health and Rehabilitation in Lakeland.
That facility is reporting one positive COVID-19 coronavirus case with a staff member, but Dana Faison knows how quickly those numbers can change and he wants his mother to get tested for the virus.
“I know you said National Guard would be testing residents on the news and that hasn’t happened yet,” Dana Faison said.
10Investigates has been asking for weeks where the National Guard has conducted testing after DeSantis announced strike teams would be deployed to long-term care facilities across the state.
In the Tampa Bay area, they have only visited 20 facilities, while 96 facilities have reported at least one positive case.
“Testing is so critical because it helps us make clinical decisions, staffing decisions,” Kristen Knapp said.
Knapp is with the Florida Health Care Association. They represent 82 percent of Florida’s long-term care facilities.
“We’re at [the] guidance of the Department of Health on what criteria they use,” Knapp said.
She says facilities have been at a loss, not knowing how to get help for testing but hopes that will change after what she heard from a meeting with Surgeon General Scott Rivkees.
“They are also setting up a registration process so these facilities can get tests. It sounds like they are setting up a more sustainable system in the state. This more formalized process, we welcome it because we’d like more tests being done,” Knapp said.
She says they hope to ramp up testing across the state’s facilities in the next few days because testing is key to protecting those most vulnerable to the virus.
She feels rapid response testing at these facilities would be a great solution to getting back to a sense of normalcy.
For Dana Faison, he just hopes his mom’s facility will be the next stop for the Department of Health or the National Guard.
“Where my mom is, it hasn’t happened yet,” he said.
The Department of Health is directing the testing. Knapp is encouraging facilities to reach out to their local officials to get those tests.
We also asked the governor's office for a list of stops for the new mobile lab. We’re told it has conducted more than 800 tests at four facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, but no word yet on when it will be in the Tampa Bay area.
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