FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — Three more Florida residents at the same long-term care facility died from the new coronavirus, bringing to six the total number of elderly deaths there during the outbreak.
“Sadly, we learned today that three residents who tested positive have passed away," the Atria Willow Wood assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale told Patch in a statement Thursday night. "Our thoughts are with the families of these residents during this difficult time."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has accused the facility of failing to screen "construction workers, staff and cooks who were ill" before allowing them access to the property.
"That is exactly what you are not supposed to do," DeSantis told reporters last week.
Atria Willow Wood has 96 assisted living residents and 123 independent living residents, according to state officials.
"As of March 26, in total, our community has had 16 residents who tested positive, including the six who passed. We’ve also had 11 residents who tested negative," the facility said. "Three of those residents have since passed away, unrelated to COVID-19. We are awaiting the results for two other residents who have also been tested."
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott A. Rivkees has said all residents are checked for fevers when state officials are called to facilities like Atria Willow Wood for a suspected COVID-19 outbreak. "We made sure that these individuals were well, made sure that they were isolated, made sure that the facility had proper decontamination and cleaning protocols," he said last week.
In Kirkland, Washington, 35 coronavirus deaths have been linked to Life Care Center. The CDC said staff members who worked while sick at multiple long-term care facilities contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among the elderly in the Seattle area, according to the Associated Press.
"Our primary concern right now is supporting our residents and staff and doing everything in our power to keep them safe," Atria Willow Wood officials said. "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.”
Atria Willow Wood is located in Broward County, which has been at the epicenter of Florida's outbreak of the illness along with nearby Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
“For the last several weeks, we have been singularly focused on preparing our communities and responding to COVID-19," Atria Willow Wood officials explained. "Beginning March 4, we have been actively screening all visitors and prohibiting anyone from working in the community if he or she is unable to pass our screening."
Facility officials said they were notified of the first confirmed case on March 16 by the Florida Department of Health office in Broward County.
"We immediately escalated our protocols within the community. The Department of Health was quickly on-site and was entirely supportive of our responses and protocols," Atria Willow Wood officials said. "Over the past two weeks, we have been in daily communication with the different state and local agencies, including the Department of Health office in Broward County, the Agency for Health Care Administration and others. We also continue to follow the recommendations and guidelines from the CDC.”