Governor Ron DeSantis Lifts COVID-19-Related Ban on Nursing Home Visits

Senior patients of assisted living home gathering at table in living room and playing lotto at table. Photo and Caption: SeventyFour/

Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday, September 1, announced he will be lifting the ban on visitations to Florida’s nursing homes. The Florida governor said he would lift the ban following recommendations from a nursing home task force that has met in recent weeks. The task force recommended families visit their loved ones two at a time.

Other restrictions have been put in place for everyone’s safety:

  • Facilities can’t allow visitors for 14 days if there is a positive case for caregivers or residents. 
  • Visitors must socially distance and stay six feet apart, while essential caregivers are allowed to touch
  • Families must wear protective equipment including masks
  • Visitations are by appointment only
  • Children under the age of 18 are not yet allowed.

Most Florida facilities have not had a new coronavirus case since Aug. 11, according to Mary Mayhew, head of the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, who led the task force. Around 62% of Florida facilities have not had an employee or a patient new be diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last few weeks.

The reopening of long-term care facilities to visitors Tuesday comes after nearly six months of lockdown. The closure was necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus to a most-vulnerable population but has caused “a lot of pain for a lot of families.”

“Part of having a healthy society is understanding that human beings seek affection,” DeSantis said. “Many of the folks understand that they have loved ones who are in the last stage of their life. They’re not demanding a medical miracle. They’re not having unrealistic expectations. They just would like to be able to say goodbye or to hug somebody.”

Since the pandemic’s first reported cases in Florida March 1, more than 4,700 long-term care residents and staff members have died of the virus, including 131 people in Brevard and 116 in Seminole, the two hardest-hit Central Florida counties. The disease has been spread largely by staff and vendors allowed in the facilities before they were required to get regular testing.

Two long-term care industry representatives on the governor’s task force supported the decision.

The mandate does not require visitors to test negative for the virus before entering the facilities, which include group homes for people with intellectual disabilities. DeSantis said false negative and false positive tests and the delay in getting test results made doing so problematic, although he acknowledged that visitation would result in a “small” number of new infections.

It is still not clear how quickly the facilities themselves will comply with the order. Other states have already allowed in-person visitations to their state nursing home facilities.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster also announced on Tuesday the  visits at nursing homes could resume after nearly six months, but only outdoors and with no hugs or kisses. Texas began allowing limited nursing home visits on August 6, provided there were adequate barriers and no new cases within the last two weeks. Physical touch is still not permitted. 

In California, only one person at a time was permitted to visit provided there were no new virus cases in a facility in the last 14 days and the surrounding community was experiencing a decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Californians were allowed to visit their loved ones as of mid-July.