TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Florida officials report that residents of all 4,400 long-term care facilities have been offered the opportunity to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

“We’re obviously trying to protect people’s lives, but not only that. We’re also trying to make sure their lives are still worth living,” said DeSantis.

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DeSantis spoke at a press conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday.

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“I think we have to protect them to get back to normal,” said DeSantis.

The governor did not comment on how “normal” would look.

Mary Shannon Daniel, a Jacksonville woman whose story went viral after getting a job at her husband’s facility to see him, said this gives hope to loved ones who are still in long-term care facilities, many socially distant or separated from families.

“It’s just a little bit of hope that ‘oh my god’ it’s just amazing,” Daniel said with tears in his eyes.

Daniel has become something of a spokesperson for families across central Florida who are pushing for visits to long-term care facilities.

As early as September, she was a member of the “Reopening Long-Term Care Facilities” task force in Florida.

The task force got the governor to sign an executive order to allow compassionate caregivers to visit their loved ones.

Now she’s pushing for even more flexibility with loved ones in nursing homes, hoping to get them out of the facility for a ride, shopping, and even sharing a smile and a kiss.

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“It’s time. It’s time. He hasn’t seen me smile in almost a year and I want to smile at him,” Daniel said.

Her husband is due to have his second dose of the vaccine on February 12th and she is due to have hers on February 3rd. Once all the long-term care facilities have received her second dose, she hopes to get back to normal.

“I think it’s time for you to get back to your normal life because you are protected by this vaccine. Let them come back to live the life they still have, ”Daniel added.

It is up to the governor to amend or sign a new executive order to give long-term care facilities clear, enforceable direction.

“We need a clear direction. We need it to come from them so it’s very clear, very direct what their next step is so that it can be an order on the street, ”she added.

At the assisted living facility in Spring Hills, Lake Mary, Executive Director Amanda Nykamp said they will operate under the current executive order until new instructions are received from the governor, state, or health care authority.

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However, this does not mean that they do not plan to reopen gradually once more vaccines are given.

“We are confident that we will see some changes in the next 30 days,” said Nykamp. “We will open up in different phases, phases 1 to 3. So it’s not a big opening. We can reintroduce residents to eating together, community engagement activities, and subsequent visits from residents and families. “

News 6 also heard from the spokesman for Rosecastle Management, which supports a network of assisted living and memory maintenance facilities in Florida, including the assisted living facility at Golden Pond in Winter Garden, about how they plan to move forward after the first doses are given .

“Our communities are both delighted and relieved to have received our first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and look forward to receiving our second dose later this month. As you may know, one dose of the vaccine offers up to 50% effectiveness in the fight against Covid-19. After the second dose is administered, the efficacy rates increase to 95%. While we seek to return to normal visiting policies and reopen our communities, it is our duty to protect our residents and our employees. In our continued efforts to protect the vulnerable populations we serve and the great teams that care for them, we will not make any changes to our Visiting Policy until we receive guidance from the state health departments. For now, the Governor’s Executive Order (No. 20-011), issued in October, remains in place and we will adhere to it until further notice. Make no mistake, there will be grand community service celebrations across Florida when it is deemed safe to return to normal activities without fear of contracting the virulent Covid-19 virus. Until then, however, we will be vigilant about the health and well-being of our residents.

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