Florida's long-term care facilities, hardest hit by COVID-19, to get mobile lab and more PPE

From the outside looking in, Bristol at Tampa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center appears calm. One resident approached a window, mask over her face, and peered out.

Inside, state records say there have been nearly 50 coronavirus cases. Hillsborough County’s medical examiner files show at least four deaths.  

Reality paints a similar picture inside of Plant City’s Community Convalescent Center, also known as Community Care Center, where an outbreak of 72 cases led to the transfer of 55 residents out of the facility. The remaining 17 cases were staffers. 

No deaths have been confirmed at the facility.

Donna Rodgers, the Plant City facility’s administrator, says their employees “have created dedicated units to monitor and care for all of our residents. This includes a unity for those who have tested positive for COVID-19, a unity for persons under investigation for COVID-19, as well as a step-down unit and wellness unit for those who are unaffected.”

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Speaking from Sarasota on Tuesday, the governor provided a glimmer of hope for long-term care facilities where containment has been hindered by a lack of Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.

“We understand who the most vulnerable groups are of the coronavirus,” he said. “Pretty soon, we will have sent out 10 million masks to just long-term care facilities. We’ve sent out 7 to 8 million for sure, and we have many more on the way. We’ve also done over a million gloves, half a million face shields.”

Beginning Wednesday, DeSantis will announce his plan for the first-of-its-kind mobile, rapid testing lab that will be exclusive to Florida’s long-term care facilities. Inside a converted RV, residents will get their results in 45 minutes. 

“We think that’s going to be a major force multiplier,” he said.

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Thousands of nursing home residents statewide have been transferred to hospitals in the last month, unable to return to their facilities. DeSantis says he wrote President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force to ask for hospitals to be reimbursed.

“It’s flexibility that we’re looking for on the reimbursement. We’ll make it easier on the hospitals to take transfers from nursing homes, to keep patients that are COVID-positive from having to return to a nursing home.”

The reimbursement would come from Medicare.