HIALEAH, Fla. – Deaths of patients at long-term care facilities make up more than half of all of the COVID-19 deaths in the state.
According to Hialeah's mayor, the city is home to the most long-term care facilities per capita in all of Florida, which is why officials are trying to stem the flow of new COVID-19 cases ravaging them.
Daylet Collazo gushes about her grandmother, Olga Rodriguez, who was one of the many residents of long-term care facilities in Florida who have been killed by the novel coronavirus.
"My grandmother was the sweetest, nicest person anyone can ever meet," she said.
Rodriguez had dementia and couldn’t walk, but otherwise, Collazo describes her as a healthy 81-year-old woman, living at the Hialeah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
"She was strong, she had her talking," said Collazo. "She was such a sweet, little old lady."
Then, COVID-19 began hitting long-term care facilities in South Florida and, unfortunately, Rodriguez became one of the victims.
On May 22nd she was hospitalized. Collazo said her grandmother had pneumonia and could barely breathe. About a month later, she passed away.
Collazo feels that the facility her grandmother was living in could have gotten her emergency medical treatment sooner and done more to help her.
"When I received the phone call at June 23 at 4:30 in the morning, it was like they killed me, because I received a call from the hospital that she had passed away, because they took her from me, there was no reason," she said.
In response, the facility sent a statement about the large number of cases they’ve seen, saying in part:
"Hialeah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center remains committed to the care and safety of our residents and staff, and we continue taking critical steps to keep them protected, following all CDC guidelines and working with our state and local health officials and regulatory partners."
In Miami-Dade County there have been more than 500 deaths at long-term care facilities, and two out of the three facilities with the highest number of deaths in the entire state are in Hialeah (the third is in Miami Springs).
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said when the pandemic started, staff members at certain facilities were positive for the virus without knowing and spreading it to their patients.
Now he said more stringent guidelines from the state, as well as a new effort on the city's side, will hopefully see the number of new cases slow down.
"We all know that these places have been the worst hit and we want to stay ahead of that," Hernandez said. "We've actually formed a task force to assist the state, ACA, in making sure we can identify any place where there is a hot spot."
State guidelines are that long-term care facility staff be tested for COVID-19 every 14 days, but the City of Hialeah is going to push for them to be tested every five to seven days.