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Innovative Florida leads with prototype, plan to build network of COVID-designated facilities for elderly

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Florida health officials are planning a network of “COVID-designated facilities” that will be used to help assisted living patients recover from the disease, instead of sending them, infected, back to their centers where they could sicken or kill many more people.

The concept is the brainchild of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who introduced it over the course of two press conferences on Friday, including a presentation at the Dolphin Pointe skilled care facility in Arlington, which is near Jacksonville. The facility will serve as a prototype for the network, The Center Square reported.

The news outlet noted further:

Dolphin Pointe will be used exclusively for recovering COVID-19 patients, with 17 on hand and seven more arriving in the next 24 hours, he said, noting it has negative pressure rooms and other amenities most standard nursing homes, ALFs and LTCs lack.

“We have thousands of [long-term care] facilities and far more that simply don’t have the capacity to deal with positive residents,” DeSantis said. “We could not ask hospitals to send patients back to nursing homes and long-term care facilities” that don’t have the proper set-up and mitigation arrangements to care for them without infecting others,

According to state coronavirus tracking data, more than 600 of the 1,669 deaths from the virus thus far have involved nursing home residents and staff. More than 470 facilities around the state have reported more than 1,400 residents and staffers have tested positive.

“We knew this was a disease with a disproportionate effect on the elderly, particularly those with co-morbidities,” DeSantis said, adding that his state has sent 10 million masks, 1 million gloves, and 500,000 face shields to the various long term care facilities.

The governor added that 50 four-person National Guard “strike teams” are exclusively focused on assisting nursing homes and long-term care facilities. In addition, a specially designed and equipped RV with the capability of conducting 3,500 45-minute coronavirus tests per week will be traveling around the state visiting facilities in South Florida starting this weekend.

“The state has put its money where its mouth is,” DeSantis, a Republican and former U.S. representative, said.

De Santis has already been praised for his innovative responses to the pandemic, especially when it comes to taking care of one of the most vulnerable populations, the elderly and infirm.

On Saturday, he gave a shout-out to Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Dr. Marc Siegel in a tweet for recognizing the efforts.

In an interview with the network’s Laura Ingraham earlier, DeSantis explained that his administration focused early on nursing homes and LTCs because they were filled with vulnerable patients. That included suspending outside visitations and making sure all staffers were screened for coronavirus.

“In Florida, 60 percent of the deaths [involve people] 75 and up, so let’s devote resources to help those folks who are the most vulnerable,” he added.

In a separate interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, DeSantis — who issued a stay-at-home order April 4 — discussed his strategies in more depth.

“I charged the National Guard with doing strike teams and spot testing at the facility to try to figure out if any of the staff are asymptomatic. Whenever there was an incident at a nursing home, we send these quick response teams to go and try to limit some infections,” he said.

“We’ve put out almost six million masks just to our nursing homes and assisted living facilities and so we understood the risk that this posed to the senior population.”

DeSantis partially reopened the state’s beaches in mid-April.

Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, ordered nursing homes to take coronavirus patients, and now more than 4,900 people in long-term care facilities have died. And now a GOP candidate for Congress from New York wants the Justice Department to investigate the decision.

The innovative Florida governor also announced that antibody testing for the virus would begin and will be available at the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars stadium as well as West Palm Beach beginning Saturday. Both locations can perform 100 tests per day.

“For this one step, we are focusing first on health care workers and first responders,” he said. Florida has “the first 200,000 [antibody tests] delivered this week.”

Jon Dougherty

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