Thursday morning update

At his Wednesday presser, Gov. Ron DeSantis talked about his efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. Florida has 4,480 LTCs with 151,724 residents.

In Escambia County, over 70% of the COVID-19 deaths have tied to LTCs. Because the state’s reporting system, we don’t know how many of the 567 county residents that have tested positive are tied to the nursing homes.

Since mid-March, LTCs have been under lockdown with family and friends prohibited from visiting their loved one.Gov. DeSantis would like “to get to yes” on allowing visitations, but “I just want to be able to know that we have procedures in place that if someone goes to visit their mother, that two weeks later, we’re not going to have 50 infections at nursing home or a longterm care facility.”

“Having the isolation does come at a psychological and social costs,” he said. “And I think one of the frustrating things throughout this whole process has been an inability of people to ever discuss the negative effects of mitigation.”

He continued,”This is an issue, and we can’t just turn a blind eye. Yes, it was right. We had no choice, we had to do it, but we’ve got to figure out a way to get to yes. We’ve got to figure out a way to give some folks hope, and be able to see their family.”

The governor said he would not lift the order until he was convinced the visitations were going to be safe.

The governor’s presentation at the presser can be found here.

Voluntary LTC Testing

Until Sunday. May 10, the COVID-19 tests were voluntary for staff at nursing homes. Inweekly has reported that Southern Oaks didn’t have its staff tested last month when Ascension Sacred Heart deployed its mobile testing unit to the skilled care nursing home. The employees had to get tested at the walk-up and drive-thru sites in the county.

State regulators now have ordered homes with positive cases to require employees to submit to tests but only if and when the National Guard arrives.

This is contrary to the White House coronavirus task force recommendation on Monday, May 11 that all residents and staff at long-term care facilities be tested immediately.

Fact Check

Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald  reports that Gov. DeSantis overstated how many long-term care facilities his COVID-19 strike teams test when he bragged about them at a news conferences last month.

As cases begin to rise in nursing homes, the governor touted the creation of rapid emergency support (RES) teams to operate as the incident command structure for Florida’s longterm care facility response.

“The department’s RES strike team includes an infection preventionist, local county health department staff, regional staff from the agency for healthcare administration, nursing staff, a Florida infectious disease transportation network team, and an advanced life support ambulance,” said DeSantis at his April 13 presser. “These RES teams have responded to 93 longterm care facilities with Covid-19 positive patients.”

The Miami Herald reports records now show the state had, at the time, conducted tests at only eight nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

On April 21, the governor said, “The National Guard teams that have been deployed as strike teams for our assisted living facilities and nursing homes have tested over 3,400 individuals in 21 different facilities and they’re doing more every day to try to identify any outbreaks in those very vulnerable facilities.”

Department of Health records obtained by the Miami Herald show fewer than 20 homes had been tested. Furthermore, the results for two additional facilities were rejected by the state lab.

Read more.

New Poll

The University of South Florida and Nielsen partnered on a statewide survey of 600 Floridians to assess public opinion related to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, public health situation. The survey was fielded from April 15-24, 2020, and the results are reported with a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error +/-4. Top line results include:

Public concern remains high. A majority agree with a statement that they are personally concerned (52.2%) or are concerned about someone they know (76.6%) contracting the novel coronavirus in the next three months.

Public concerns are justified, but worries remain about response. While a near universal number of respondents (86.5%) agree that public concern related to the coronavirus is justified, worries also persist about the public reaction. Four in 10 individuals surveyed agree that public reactions to the pandemic will do more harm than the disease itself.

Strong support for statewide mitigation policies, including face mask requirements. Healthy majorities of individuals surveyed report support for the state closing restaurants and bars (88.9%), limiting public gatherings (94.3%), limiting gatherings in houses of worship (87.4%), issuing “stay at home” orders (86.2%), closing beaches and other public recreation areas (81.6%), fining individuals who violate “stay at home” orders (62.2%), instituting nightly curfews (62.9%), and requiring individuals to wear masks in public places (79.3%).

Healthy approval and trust of federal government’s response, but attitudes trail assessments of state and local government. A plurality of Floridians (48.9%) approve of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Approval of the federal response is 2.5% lower than state government and fully 20% lower than local government. A majority of individuals surveyed (54.9%) also trust the federal government “a great deal” or a “good amount” to provide accurate information about the pandemic. Trust in federal information is 8.3% lower than that for state government and 21.7% lower than that for local government.

Majority approve of and trust the state government’s response. A majority of Floridians (51.5%) approve of state government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Almost two-thirds of individuals surveyed (63.1%) also trust state government “a great deal” or a “good amount” to provide accurate information about the novel coronavirus situation.

Robust approval and trust in local government response. Nearly 7 in 10 Floridians surveyed (68.8%) approve of their local government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Greater than three-quarters of Floridians (76.6%) also trust their local government “a great deal” or a “good amount” to provide accurate information about the novel coronavirus situation.

Partisan differences emerge on trust and approval. Registered Democrats are significantly more likely to disapprove (52%) of the federal response to the COVID-19 situation, compared with 10% of Republicans and 35% of Independents/Third Party identifiers. Similarly, 44% of Democrats disapproved of the state government’s response, compared with 11% of Republicans and 32% of Independents/Third Party identifiers.

The president’s and governor’s press conferences matter. Two-thirds of Floridians (66.3%) say the president’s daily press conferences in April were a source of “a lot” or “some” information about the novel coronavirus situation. Greater than 6 in 10 Floridians (61.4%) report the same about the governor’s daily press conferences in April.

The last poll question reenforces my point about the need for press briefings from the county and local health department. We’re given a bunch of numbers daily with no explanation. And now as we reopen or reset–the word used by the county administration last month–the businesses, very little guidance is given. These frustrations surfaces at the forum held at Blue Wahoo Stadium on Tuesday.