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Coronavirus crisis: Florida won’t say which nursing homes have COVID-19

8 On Your Side

PALMETTO, Fla. (WFLA) – After an 8 On Your Side investigation confirmed a number of COVID-19 cases inside a Palmetto nursing home, we started hearing from many concerned viewers.

Floridians want to know if their loved ones could also be at risk. But Florida officials are still refusing to identify which elder-care facilities have had positive COVID-19 cases.

8 On Your Side received emails, calls and voicemails from viewers after our report on Monday.

“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.

Florida families have a simple question: Is there a positive COVID-19 case inside my loved one’s nursing home? But Florida won’t say which nursing homes have COVID-19.

As of Monday, we know at least 93 facilities in Florida have had at least one positive case.

“What we found in a lot of these long-term facilities is the spread is more significant among the staff,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

Gov. 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 Gov. DeSantis, the Florida Department of Health, Agency for Health Care Administration and Florida’s Surgeon General Scott Rivkees all refuse to identify which elder-care facilities have had positive cases.

8 On Your Side has made a public records request to obtain this information.

Other reporters are also seeking this information. On Monday, a reporter asked why the state wouldn’t reveal which facilities have positive cases.

“So, if an individual has COVID-19 in a nursing home or a facility, we have contact tracing which is in place,” said Dr. Rivkees.

“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.

So, why is this information not being released to families?

DOH officials say it’s because of privacy laws. However, they refuse to provide the exact legal justification.

8 On Your Side wants to hear from you if you’re concerned about your loved one in an elder care facility. You can email tips to MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

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