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3 more Atria Willow Wood residents die amid coronavirus pandemic

Relatives of residents at assisted living facility ask for more testing after deaths

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Three more Atria Willow Wood residents have died in the last 24 hours in Broward County, according to Atria Senior Living, the facility’s operator.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Max Barker has been confined to his bedroom at the assisted living facility for way too long. He said workers at the assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale take his temperature three times a day.

“I have been in a hell of a lot worse positions than this said,” the 95-year-old World War II veteran said, adding that “as soon as this thing is over, they are yanking me out of here.”

Nine Atria Willow Wood residents have died, but not all of them have tested positive for the infectious disease.

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

Out of the nine dead, six tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. The symptoms include fever and cough, and in more severe cases, patients experience difficulty breathing. It is highly contagious.

“Two employees knocked on my door today," Barker said. "They were dressed in full garb.”

Man transported from Atria Willow Wood to be tested for COVID-19
Man transported from Atria Willow Wood to be tested for COVID-19

Gov. Ron DeSantis has blamed the deaths on the lack of protection workers had while they were around residents.

According to an e-mail that was sent to relatives of the assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, the three new victims were among a group of 16 residents who tested positive for COVID-19.

Atria Willow Wood reported 16 residents tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
Atria Willow Wood reported 16 residents tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. (Local 10 News)

As of Thursday afternoon, two residents were still waiting for the results of their tests. Jo Lynn Ryckman, who lives in Denver, said she is very concerned about her mother, Joan De Felice, who is passing the time watching exercise videos.

“We don’t understand why there is no testing going on in that hot spot,” Ryckman said. “We don’t understand why they can’t get tests in there and test everyone.”

An Atria Senior Living spokesperson said the operator requested that Florida Department of Health officials return to the facility to test all of the residents and staff, but that hasn’t happened yet. DOH hasn’t responded to Local 10 News’ requests for comment about the lack of response.

Here is Atria Senior Living’s statement:

"Sadly, we learned today that three residents who tested positive have passed away. Our thoughts are with the families of these residents during this difficult time.

As of March 26, in total, our community has had sixteen residents who tested positive, including the six who passed, and eleven residents who tested negative. We are awaiting the results for two 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. 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."

-- Spokesperson for Atria Senior Living


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