PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) — After a number of COVID-19 cases at a Palmetto nursing home, many Florida residents want to know if their loved ones could be at risk. But state officials still refuse to identify which elder-care facilities have had positive COVID-19 cases.
As of Monday, at least 93 facilities in Florida have had at least one positive case.
WFLA received emails, calls and voicemails from viewers after reporting on the cases at Riviera Palms Rehabilitation Center.
“This is so disturbing as to what’s going on in our nursing homes,” said one woman. “Now, this is affecting my family.”
Other viewers were also concerned about the potential risk exposure for their loved one.
“A few people taken to the hospital last week came back positive and they’re not really telling the employees,” said another viewer.
“What we found in a lot of these long-term facilities is the spread is more significant among the staff,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
DeSantis acknowledges there’s a problem. He has directed the Florida National Guard to help ramp up testing at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“We are raising the bar even further,” he said. “I am directing the Florida National Guard to create more strike teams to significantly ramp up testing in long-term care facilities.”
But DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health, Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees all have declined to identify which elder-care facilities have had positive cases.
“We really don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors,” said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care.
Lee’s non-profit advocates for nursing home residents in Florida and beyond.
“It’s usually just by reporting, like what you’re doing right now. That’s how we’re getting this information,” he said.
DOH officials say information is not being released to families because of privacy laws. However, they refuse to provide the exact legal justification.