Worker ‘coming in while sick’ caused 3 coronavirus deaths, DeSantis says

DeSantis blames Atria Willow Wood for allowing workers to come in sick

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Richard Curren was the first of three Atria Willow Wood residents to die of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease that is spreading in South Florida.

COVID-19 brings grief to relatives of retired magician who died at 77

The 77-year-old retired magician and travel agent died March 16 at Holy Cross Hospital. A 93-year-old man, whose identity hasn’t been released, died March 20. This weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the third victim.

DeSantis blamed their deaths on Atria Senior Living, the operator of the assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale. The operator denies the accusation.

“The facility did not follow any of the regulations," DeSantis said. "The construction staff, the food service, the regular staff; they were coming in when they were sick and they were allowed to enter these facilities.”

DeSantis didn’t release the epidemiological investigator’s report explaining if the workers were symptomatic or asymptomatic and if they had been tested for COVID-19.

The three residents who died are among the 13 who had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday afternoon. Five residents of the 180-bed facility are waiting for results, according to Mike Gentry, the ALF’s senior vice president of care.

“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,” the ALF operator said in a statement, adding the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined the ALF is in compliance with guidelines and regulations.

After the three COVID-19 patients died, Mary Mayhew, the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, said Atria Willow Wood wasn’t the only ALF under investigation for COVID-19. There were 18 others, she said Wednesday without identifying them.

As of Monday afternoon, the CDC confirmed 14 deaths in Florida were caused by COVID-19.

About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

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.