Operator of assisted living facility with COVID-19 deaths claims DeSantis is wrong

Conflicting messages from Florida Gov. and owner of Atria Willow Wood

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Atria Senior Living, the operator of the assisted living facility in Broward County where Gov. Ron DeSantis said seven COVID-19 patients were infected, issued a statement late Friday night in response to the governor’s stern warning.

DeSantis said two of the seven residents infected at Atria Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale died. This week public health officials locked down the 219-person assisted living facility and launched investigations. Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue has returned to the facility at least a dozen times to rescue residents.

DeSantis accused Atria Willow Wood administrators of not properly screening construction workers and staff allowing them to work their jobs unimpeded.

“That is exactly what you are not supposed to do,” DeSantis said.

Atria Senior Living claims DeSantis’ statement is “a completely inaccurate representation of our response to protect the health and safety of our residents,” adding that since March 3, it has screened all visitors “before any state guidance on this was provided.”

The statement did not explain how Richard Curren, a retired 77-year-old magician, was infected with the new coronavirus and died of COVID-19 on March 15 at Holy Cross Hospital. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis announced his death on March 17.

“Richard was ebullient. He was loving. What do you say in a moment like that? He was perfect,” said Sheila Curren, his wife of 57 years.

Richard Curren, 77, died at Atria Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale after contracting COVID-19. (Curren family, WPLG)

After Curren’s death, Mary Mayhew, the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, ordered all of the workers at ALF facilities to wear masks. Amid the pandemic, there is a shortage of masks.

Officials have not identified the second COVID-19 patient who died at 92 years old.

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Local 10 News Reporters' notes on COVID-19 response in South Florida

About the Authors:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.