Florida is well known as a place for retirees. What comes with that is an abundance of long term care facilities, also known as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. In general, nursing home residents are at a very high risk of dying if they contract the cornonavirus due to their age and preexisting health issues.
To date, over 3,000 residents of Florida nursing homes have died from Covid. This figure represents approximately 40% of Florida’s Covid deaths. This is, of course, hugely disproportionate as less than 4% of Florida’s population resides in nursing homes at any one time. This demonstrates that more needs to be done.
Last week, the nursing homes located in St. Augustine, Jacksonville and the rest of Northeast Florida, reported 22 Covid deaths. Before last week, the highest weekly total was 11. So far, 109 Northeast Florida nursing home residents have died due to Covid.
Complicating the fight against coronavirus in nursing homes is that staff members, especially CNAs and LPNs, see many residents each day. CNAs perform or assist with many of the personal activities of daily living, like eating, bathing, toileting and transferring in and out of bed. Because of the close nature of this personal care, CNAs can easily spread the virus from one resident to another.
It is necessary that nursing homes take special precautions to ensure that none of its staff members bring coronavirus into the facilities. Staff members who have the virus but asymptomatic present a disaster in the making. Nursing homes must mandate mask wearing by its employees, must test even asymptomatic employees on a frequent basis, must provide (and require the use of) personal protective equipment for each resident to whom a staff member provides care. Staff members must also be questioned daily on whether they have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive and whether they have had any symptoms consistent with Covid. Of course, their temperatures must be taken before each work shift. In addition, residents who test positive should be kept isolated from other residents.
Without these measures in place, nursing homes will continue to be hotbeds of Covid infections and death. Whether nursing homes will be held liable for preventable Covid infections remains unknown due to the length of time it takes for a nursing home case to be litigated. Furthermore, there has been mention of the possibility of legislation providing immunity for health care providers for coronavirus infections and resulting injuries or death. Whether such legislation would violate constitutional rights to seek redress in the court system remains uncertain. We do know from prior legislation that caps limiting damages have been held to be constitutional. Lower caps would make nursing home claims economically infeasible due to the high expense in prosecuting nursing home cases and would effectively amount to a ban on such cases. Continue reading