FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue personnel have responded to the Atria Willow Wood assisted living facility two times on Wednesday to help a man who was showing symptoms of the deadly respiratory illness.
According to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, two other residents were hospitalized on Tuesday night. Several Fort Lauderdale firefighters and one police officer are on quarantine after being at the facility. The first responders were linked to the recent deaths of three facility residents.
Public health officials quarantined the facility after Richard Curren, a retired magician, became the first COVID-19 patient to die in South Florida. Curren, 77, was living at the assisted living facility with his wife, Sheila Curren.
“Richard was ebullient. He was loving,” Sheila Curren said. “What do you say in a moment like that? He was perfect.”
“He went into the hospital -- I think it was a couple days ago -- with a respiratory complaint that was considered fairly routine, and only last night he died, and then the doctors let us know that it was COVID-19,” Erik Curren said Tuesday.
The five Fort Lauderdale firefighters who took Richard Curren to the hospital on Friday are among the firefighters in quarantine. A police officer who went into the room of one of the other two people who died to identify the body and file a report is also now in isolation.
According to the Atria Willow Wood’s vice president of care, so are four other residents of the facility. One of those tests has already come back negative, but health experts are taking no chances.
“The Department of Health sent a strike team last evening upon becoming aware of the individual’s positive test result, and then worked through the night to check on every other member of the facilities,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday during a news conference.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Protection had confirmed 80 COVID-19 cases in Broward County, according to the Florida Department of Health. Richard Curren’s daughter, Tracie Curren, said she hopes her father’s death will serve as a lifesaving warning.
“I just want everybody to understand that it’s here,” she said. “We have got to stop the spread of this.”