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Assisted-living facilities in Florida no longer have to test staff for the coronavirus

Nursing homes will be required to continue testing under federal guidelines.

Assisted-living facilities in Florida no longer have to test staff for the coronavirus after two emergency mandates from the Agency for Health Care Administration expired Sunday.

The statewide orders were issued in mid-June and required nursing home and assisted-living facility staff to be tested every two weeks for COVID-19. Workers wouldn’t be let inside unless they had tested negative for the virus.

Nursing home staff are still required to be tested under federal guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But workers from assisted-living facilities won’t be, according to an alert AHCA sent to healthcare providers.

“With the expiration of the state Rule 59AER20-4, assisted-living facilities will no longer be required to routinely test staff,” the state’s alert read.

There are 3,120 assisted-living facilities registered in Florida with a total of more than 110,000 patient beds, according to AHCA. Florida’s nursing homes have about 86,000 beds. Coronavirus deaths tied to elder-care residents and staff make up about 41 percent of all deaths in the state, records show.

The expiration of the emergency orders does not affect coronavirus testing for elder-care center residents.

Earlier this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an order allowing nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to reopen to visitors. The new guidelines say a facility cannot have a new coronavirus case in 14 days in order to accept visitors. Facilities have the choice to reopen or not under the guidelines.

Unlike the state’s biweekly testing mandate, federal testing guidelines for nursing homes depends on the coronavirus positivity rate in the region. If the county has a positivity rate of less than 5 percent, testing for staff can be just once a month. If the rate is between 5 and 10 percent, staff testing is once a week. If the positivity rate is above 10 percent, testing is ordered twice a week, according to CMS.

Elder-care facilities use point-of-care testing devices that return near instant results. The devices were sent by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to nursing homes in hot spots beginning in July.

As of Tuesday, about 3,000 nursing home and assisted-living facility residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, which showed a decline from the month prior. About 3,400 health care workers in those facilities have tested positive for the virus, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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