Coronavirus cases triple at Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Center this week

TAMARAC, Fla. – Barbara Fleming is mourning the loss of her mother, Hellen Hellinger. The Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Center resident died of complications with COVID-19. She was 95.

Fleming is still trying to understand how she was infected. She remembers their last conversation over the phone.

“She was gasping for breath; telling me she loves me,” Fleming said through tears.

Hellinger’s death did not dissuade The Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Center from using the facility’s east wing to open one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ isolation centers for COVID-19 patients who are not yet ready to return to their long-term care facilities.

By Friday, the number of cases at The Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Center had tripled since Monday. According to the Florida Department of Health’s latest report, there were 17 cases of residents and 10 cases involving staffers.


Fleming said Hellinger’s roommate was among the new cases. They know her as Pilar. Her daughter visits her at her window. There is also a man who is known as M.L. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital on Tuesday. Eleanor Deibel’s loved ones said she was tested and they are waiting for results.

The situation at Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Center reflects the statewide rise of COVID-19 victims at long-term care facilities. The isolation center next to the nursing home in Tamarac has some of the relatives of the nursing home residents furious.

Some believe the management at Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Center should have consulted with them before they were contracted by the state to bring more COVID-19 patients near the nursing home. One of the relatives said she was told “that it was a state mandate” to open the isolation center at the nursing home.

The chief executive officer of the nursing home said it was a voluntary business decision.

“I think it’s horrible. I think it’s terrible,” a relative said. “You’re putting the most at-risk people at more risk.”

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."