Last month, Spectrum News reported the state was scaling back to weekly posts of COVID-19 long-term care data. But now we’ve learned not only is that data no longer being posted, but it’s not even being collected.
What You Need To Know
- Florida is no longer collecting or tracking COVID-19 case numbers in nursing home and assisted living facilities
- Facilities were told on June 4 they no longer need to report data
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is still tracking data on a national level
- Previous Coverage: State numbers show COVID-19 cases rising again in nursing homes
For the better part of the pandemic, Spectrum News 9 used the data from the state to track COVID-19 cases in long-term care. At last check, more than 11,530 total deaths related to COVID-19 have been counted for either residents or staff of those facilities.
The state recorded that number on June 3, the last day it released the data, despite telling our news outlet just days before that the information would still be included in new weekly updates.
“With COVID-19 vaccines now freely available, we are in a much better place than we were in Spring 2020,” said Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for Governor Ron DeSantis, on May 27th. “We are reporting the COVID-19 LTCF data on a weekly basis going forward.”
But on June 4, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which oversees the state’s long-term care facilities, sent out an alert letting providers know that as of June 5, they would no longer need to report COVID-19 related data to the state’s Emergency Status System (ESS).
“The data is clear that Florida’s health care facilities are well-positioned to transition to pre-pandemic activities,” said AHCA spokesperson Tiffany Vause. “As of June 4, 0.12% of nursing home and assisted living residents were COVID positive. There was a 50% decrease in COVID positive residents in SNFs and ALFs the last 30 days.”
Still, family advocates warn the lack of transparency through daily or even weekly public reports comes at a critical time for residents and staff who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“They’re going to be just as much in the dark about what’s happening in these nursing homes and assisted living as families are going to be,” said Brian Lee, the director of advocacy group Families for Better Care. “A stick your head in the sand approach to COVID is not going to work in nursing homes because we still have a significant number of employees who are still unvaccinated.”
Vause confirmed staff and resident vaccination rates are also no longer being collected from long-term care facilities. At last check, the statewide rate for nursing homes was just over 40 percent. According to data still being collected at the federal level by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, that number puts Florida in the bottom three states nationwide.