TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For days, 8 On Your Side has been contacting Florida officials to identify the nursing homes with coronavirus infections. While the state finally released limited information this weekend, they are still holding some key data back.
“It’s a nice attempt,” said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care. “Almost a half-hearted wink and a nod to full transparency.”
Lee’s non-profit advocates for nursing home residents in Florida and beyond.
8 On Your Side has worked around-the-clock to get details about nursing homes and long-term care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks. We filed public information requests, pointing out how other states like Nevada and Colorado were releasing this data.
Meanwhile, we kept hearing from frustrated viewers with families in these facilities. Loved ones and staff members said they were being kept in the dark.
Initially, the Florida Department of Health claimed that any disclosure would violate privacy laws.
But Gov. Ron DeSantis suddenly changed direction on Saturday.
Gov. DeSantis said he directed the Florida Surgeon General to release more information about these nursing homes.
“I have now directed him to determine that it is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19,” he said.
The governor said facilities were notifying all residents, family and staff members about positive tests all along.
“We have no reason to think that wasn’t done,” said DeSantis. “We know it was done most of the time.”
Florida is now naming the facilities with infections; however, the name is all you’re going to get.
Lee says the state is still protecting the nursing home industry over families.
“We don’t know if these are facilities that have one positive or a hundred positives,” said Lee.
“There’s no insight into the severity of the outbreak according to this list.”
8 On Your Side contacted the governor’s office, the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration for more information. We requested the number of cases tied to each facility and the number of deaths.
Department of Health spokesman Alberto Moscoso sent us the following statement which reads in part:
“Balancing the privacy of the individuals being tested and monitored and the confidentiality of the epidemiological investigations with the responsibility to Floridians to disclose information to protect the public is a vital role of the Florida Department of Health. In all cases, contacts are notified of possible exposure through the course of the epidemiological investigation.”
8 On Your Side will continue to press the state to provide the information families are seeking.
If a nursing home or long-term care facility has failed to keep you updated, please contact Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.
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