TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – It has been five months since the most vulnerable living at Florida nursing homes have been able to see a loved one in person. Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he’s lifting the ban on visits.
“They would just like to be able to say goodbye or to hug somebody,” Gov. DeSantis said. “It’s difficult to think that some of our actions may have prevented that.”
The governor choked up and tried to hold back tears. He even paused for several seconds to collect himself during a round table.
“I get very emotional thinking about them getting to reunite with their families. Them getting to touch each other and hold each other’s hand and hug each other,” Michelle Branham said.
Branham is the public police vice president for the Alzheimer’s Association. She sits on the nursing home task force as a voice for 60% of long term care residents, who are those with dementia or Alzheimer’s related illnesses.
A facility cannot open to visitors until two weeks of no new cases among workers and residents. Children are not allowed. But adult relatives can visit two at a time, while wearing protective gear and they must pass a virus screening.
The head of the task force says more than half of nursing homes statewide have not had an onset of new cases since the middle of August.
A workers union says the virus is still spreading.
“I honestly can’t understand how they feel like they can reopen nursing homes when 80% of the nursing homes are still turning up positive COVID patients and staff,” Denise Allegretti said.
Union leader Allegretti told us over the phone frontline workers in nursing homes should’ve been on the task force to put the brakes on moving too quickly.
“They need to put one us on the task force to be able to understand our daily lives and what we are going through,” Blanche Norwood said.
Norwood has been a caregiver in South Florida for 45 years. She is concerned because there are still thousands of cases statewide.
The most recent report as of August 30th, shows 3,500 nursing home residents were positive. That’s 2.5% of all residents.
A total 3,800 staff members were positive which is less than two percent of the total.
Norwood is now concerned whether she and her residents will be safe.
“At different periods of time, we have not had enough PPE,” she said.
Caregivers are meeting in Southwest Miami-Dade outside Kendall Regional Medical Center to protest Wednesday morning about better pay and protective gear.