Florida seniors mark four months isolated indoors — and the virus is only getting worse

While much of the US shut down to help curb the coronavirus pandemic, life in Florida seemed oddly uninterrupted. Beaches grew crowded, and so did bars, with many residents standing firm against wearing masks.

But for seniors who have been isolated from the outside world since March 15, their reality looks much different. Instead of beers on the beach and sunny days by the pool, they have been stuck inside, alone, without visitors.

Florida issued an emergency order in March that prohibits visits to nursing homes, assisted living and other long-term care facilities, except for families and friends in end-of-life circumstances. Gov. Ron DeSantis extended the restrictions this week for another 60 days.

While Florida quickly loosened coronavirus restrictions earlier than most of country, the state now has triple the number of China’s Covid-19 cases. Over the weekend, Florida achieved a new record for the most new cases in a single day –15,300 on Saturday — from any state, including New York state earlier in the pandemic.

Florida’s AARP, a non-profit focused on issues affecting seniors, is urging the state to implement extensive safety procedures that would allow nursing homes to once again welcome visitors.

“They have been in isolation, separated from their families and separated from each other for months now. And we don’t do that to prisoners,” Jeff Johnson, director of AARP Florida, told CNN affiliate WFTS.

On June 15, an emergency rule was enacted to require nursing home staff to get tested every two weeks. However, only testing staff isn’t enough, according to Johnson.

“As much as our message is we need to keep these folks safe from the virus, and we do, we also need to step up that testing so we can get to the point that it’s not just staff that get tested on the way through the door to make sure they’re free of the virus,” he said.

Along with testing staff and visitors, AARP Florida is urging the state to ensure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment is available to elder-care facilities as well as “rigorous training in infection control.”

The organization is also advocating for effective visitation policies that will allow nursing home staff to see their loved ones.

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