Keeping nursing homes safe from COVID-19 during hurricane season

Reporter: Nicole Lauren Writer: Joey Pellegrino
A nursing home resident preparing for vaccination. Credit: WINK News

Nursing home staffers are making sure our most vulnerable loved ones continue to stay safe from COVID-19 as hurricane season approaches. Nearly 95% of people in assisted living in Florida have been vaccinated, but only 43% of the people taking care of them around the clock have gotten the shot.

The Florida Assisted Living Association says all staff, whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated, continue to mask up. While some communities are mandating people get the shot, FALA says that is still difficult to enforce, because this is an emergency-use vaccination and it respects people’s decision if they want to wait.

“I think there’s another way to look at that, too,” said Veronica Catoe, CEO of the Florida Assisted Living Association. “And there’s concerns for those individuals, and they have to have the safety and the peace of mind on what they’re putting in their bodies to be able to continue to care for those residents with all their heart, which they have done.”

FALA says—because of the constant changes we’re seeing with CDC guidelines—its facilities continue to be flexible as they put plans in place.

“So, with the vaccination rate, yes, we would love to see it increase,” Catoe said. “But I think it’s going to continue to take time for people to build that, to overcome their own hesitancy when it comes to it.”

FALA says many people prefer to shelter in place, which is why staff and residents are allowed to invite their families to shelter with them. FALA also says something learned during Hurricane Irma was collaboration, how it can better work with hotels, churches and other venues to offer more shelter locations.

The group urges you to plan now so you are ready later.

“I encourage everyone to know what their facilities’ plans are, as a family member,” Catoe said. “You want to know where your loved one can potentially go. If you’re able to take your loved one home with you or you want them to be with you, that is absolutely a choice that every ALF [assisted living facility] encourages, but many families prefer to come into the ALF or travel with them. So just understand… what their plan is, so that you know ahead of time.”

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