TAMPA BAY — The official start of hurricane season is just days away and long term care facilities are among the many now reevaluating their emergency plans because of COVID-19.

What You Need To Know

  • All nursing homes required by law to have comprehensive emergency management plans

  • Transfer agreements between facilities part of emergency plans

  • COVID-19 forcing reevaluation of transfer agreements

  • Transportation agreements must also be reviewed

Every nursing home in the state is required to have a comprehensive emergency management plan. 

“That is something that we do every year for hurricane season,” said Kristen Knapp, spokesperson for the Florida Health Care Association. “Obviously with COVID-19, it looks a little different this year.”

Knapp said part of each plan is an agreement with other facilities to transfer residents there in the event of an evacuation. However, with more than 560 long-term care facilities in the state now reporting cases of COVID-19 and at least 100 of them here in the Bay Area, Knapp said those agreements must be reevaluated. 

“You don’t want to send residents who are free of the virus into a building where there’s COVID-19 or vice versa,” Knapp said.

Transportation agreements must also be looked over again, said Knapp, to make sure there are safety measures in place to transport residents with COVID-19 when necessary.  But Knapp said she is hoping that will be an absolute last resort this hurricane season.

Pinellas County Emergency Management Operation’s Manager Joe Borries agreed, saying there will be more of an effort made to shelter in place.

“This year we’re going to be a little more precise in our evacuation orders,” Borries said. “Maybe there will be some facilities that can remain behind because they’ll be safe with some water in the street but not inside their building. Not just for our healthcare facilities but for all our citizens.”

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