U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell listens to family members whose loved ones reside at Crystal Health & Rehab Center during a sit-down inside the Roth Building in Islamorada on May 19. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s recent visit to the Upper Keys and a Tavernier long-term care facility has led to a possible exposure of COVID-19.

The congresswoman said Thursday that she’s decided to self-quarantine until she receives results of a COVID-19 test out of abundance of caution. Mucarsel-Powell said she’ll get tested on Saturday after becoming aware that she shouldn’t have been invited inside a facility that’s witnessed an outbreak. 

On May 19, Mucarsel-Powell visited the Keys where she sat down with family members of loved ones who reside inside Crystal Health and Rehab Center on Plantation Key. That meeting was held at the Roth Building in Tavernier, which sits in front of Crystal Health.

During talks, family members were exasperated that Crystal Health administration did not notify them of the first reported case and the outbreak in a timely manner. The Florida Health Department was notified of a positive case involving a speech pathologist around the first of May. 

Family members also expressed their anxiety in the meeting as they waited more than a week for test results to come back on their loved ones. Some had to wait 12 days. 

Following the meeting with family members, Mucarsel-Powell called the facility to no avail — a problem many family members have experienced since the outbreak. She immediately went to the Crystal Health and Rehab Center.

Upon her arrival, the congresswoman spoke to the facility director, Ruth Robinson, who told her that certain areas of the facility were a “safe zone.” She was subsequently invited inside to a reception area not far from where she entered. She was shown a record of communications the facility had with family members.  

Mucarsel-Powell was wearing a mask from the time of her entry through the duration of her visit. 

“I had a little anxiety walking in, knowing there were positive COVID-19 cases inside,” Mucarsel-Powell told the Weekly on Thursday evening. “She (the director) assured me it was safe and I took her for her word.”

On the following day, Mucarsel-Powell’s office was contacted by Eadie and informed that she should not have been invited inside, which goes against the guidance of nursing homes with COVID-19 cases. Mucarsel-Powell subsequently spoke with Eadie and Dr. Aileen Marty, infectious disease expert at Florida International University. She said the two health experts believe her exposure was minimal during her visit. 

Overall, Mucarsel-Powell said it further validates the families sincere concerns for the well-being of their relatives at the facility. 

“The fact that the director was not following guidelines and invited me into a place already identified as a red zone shows the facility is not being managed in a way to protect patients in there,” she said. 

The Weekly reached out to the facility and Robinson for comment on Thursday, but no response was received. The Weekly also reached out to Eadie and is waiting for response. 

A state strike team entered the facility to conduct 150 tests earlier in the month after the first positive COVID-19 case was reportedy. Results came back slowly from a commercial lab. Residents who were found positive and their families were informed.

While a number came back negative, there were several found to be inconclusive. Another round of testing commenced this week. 

Just recently Crystal Health installed a hotline for family members to call to receive timely updates. That number is 305-363-0252.

The Florida Health Department in its Thursday report showed 15 residents and seven staff at the long-term care facility tested positive for COVID-19. 

Mucarsel-Powell said her 81-year-old mother who lives with her is with another family member. She said she’s staying in a room away from her husband and kids. 

“What it brings up, even for someone like myself who’s been strictly following guidelines and staying safe as possible, is that you cannot let your guard down and cannot assume the virus is not there,” she said. 

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