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New emergency order rolling back visitation restrictions

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an emergency...
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an emergency order that shut down visitation to long-term care facilities across the state.(WCTV)
Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 8:20 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - 374 days ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an emergency order that shut down visitation to long-term care facilities across the state.

But now, some good news for families.

On Monday, The Florida Department of Emergency Management issued a new emergency order that rolled back the five previous ones that restricted visitation.

These facilities still must abide by the new guidance issued by The Centers for Disease Control and The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As WCTV mentioned last week, the CDC AND CMS released new guidance for long-term care facilities.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people can hang out indoors with no masks or social distancing.

Also, no quarantines or testing if a vaccinated person doesn’t have symptoms.

CMS followed the CDC’s lead and recommended indoor visitation at all times, regardless of a resident or visitor’s vaccine state with few exceptions. “The outside numbers have driven what’s being done to them. They’ve now been vaccinated. They’ve now done everything they were supposed to do for a year,. It’s time they stop being punished for what’s happening out there,” Mary Daniel, founder of Caregivers for Compromise, said.

In early March, Caregivers for Compromise founder, Mary Daniels, talked with WCTV’s Abby Walton.

She said she was pushing the Agency for Healthcare Administration, the state agency regulator of these facilities, to follow suit.

And late Tuesday afternoon, that happened.

AHCA emailed guidance to all its facilities that lifted the visitation restrictions in the emergency orders.

It does say state nursing homes and assisted living facilities still must follow best practices for infection prevention.

AHCA also stated in the email, in part, “To clarify expectations for honoring resident’s rights, if a resident has been absent from the facility for 24-hours or more and upon return does not pass screening criteria...they should be quarantined or isolated based on state and federal guidance. However, if the resident passes screening criteria, the facility may not unnecessarily restrict the resident by requiring quarantine or isolation.”

This is a big deal for Florida families because it means residents can come and go freely and families can freely visit again as long as they follow the specified parameters.

On Tuesday, Daniel telling WCTV, she was told by AHCA, they’d release some “frequently asked questions” later this week or early next.

Because while families are overjoyed, some facilities are now worried that fully opening the doors back up could lead to a COVID-19 outbreak and potential lawsuits.

But, with most residents vaccinated, and a bill, likely to pass in the Florida legislature to help these facilities against frivolous COVID lawsuits, it may help ease some anxiety as everyone moves closer to normalcy.

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