Fort Lauderdale senior living facility hot zone for COVID-19

7 residents in hospital test positive, 4 test negative, results not yet in for 5 others

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Families of residents at Atria Willow Wood Senior Living and Memory Care say they are concerned for their loved ones’ health and well-being after seven residents remain in the hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.

Trinity Ward's 96-year-old father, Max Barker resides in the independent living area of the facility in Fort Lauderdale. Atria has three areas on its campus – independent living, assisted living and a memory care that is separate from the main building.

"How many people have to die before my dad gets tested? He has 1 1/2 lungs. He’s perfectly healthy, but if he gets any symptom, he will die," Ward said.

After three people have died, two of whom tested positive for coronavirus, she's wondering why her father hasn't been tested yet.

"I have called every day asking if they got tests," Ward said. "I don't know if the fault relies on the Atria facility, if it's the Broward County of Health or CDC -- I've called all of them and nobody seems to know and where are the tests?"

Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at a press conference Saturday in regards to Atria Willow Wood, saying some employees were not screened and allowed to work.

“They had sick construction workers, sick hospital staff, sick people in the food service, so you ended up having this time three confirmed deaths at that facility,” DeSantis said.

But facility officials said they have been screening people for weeks: "Beginning March 3, we have been actively screening all visitors and prohibiting anyone from working in the community if they are unable pass our screening, well before any state guidance on this was provided."

They also said that seven of their residents are currently in the hospital who have tested positive and four that have tested negative, and they are awaiting results for five other residents who have been tested.

Hazardous response teams from Miami-Dade and Fort Lauderdale have been at Atria Willow Wood facility as part of a state-directed response, while the Centers for Disease Control has an infection control specialist embedded on site.

Out of 219 people that live at the facility, the governor said 10 people have tested positive while Atria Willow Wood said that number is seven.

Below is Atria Willow Wood's full statement:

"Ensuring the health and well-being of our Atria residents and employees is our first priority. Beginning several weeks ago, we put protocols in place that were in strict adherence to, and in some cases went beyond, the guidelines we received from state and local officials in order to protect our community. As soon as the Department of Health office in Broward County notified us of a confirmed case in our community, we immediately escalated our safety protocols and expanded our extensive emergency-scenarios planning. Since March 16th, the Department of Health has been on-site several times to review our plans and has been supportive of our response and protocols. We continue to work closely with state and local authorities and continue to follow their recommendations, as well as those from the CDC.

"As we previously shared, we had three residents pass away last week, two tested positive and the other tested negative. We have also received confirmation that another resident who recently passed has tested positive. Our thoughts are with the families of these residents during this difficult time. As of today, we have seven residents currently in the hospital who have tested positive and four that have tested negative. We are awaiting the results for five other residents who have also been tested. We remain in close communication with our residents and families and continue to provide our support as we navigate this unprecedented situation together.

"Our primary concern right now is supporting our residents and staff and doing everything in our power to keep them safe. This is a time when business and government should work together to protect our communities. We will also continue to work with the Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration as we monitor and respond to this ever-changing situation.

“We are committed to sharing updates with our community and will continue to provide those as they become available.”

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