91-year-old female resident of Crystal Health & Rehab Center passed away from COVID-19 on May 25, per the Florida Health Department and Bob Eadie, health officer for Monroe County. It’s the first COVID-19-related death the health department has reported at a nursing facility in the Keys.
The Tavernier long-term care facility first experienced an outbreak in cases in late April and early May when a speech pathologist tested positive. As of May 25, the health department reported 23 cases inside the nursing home between residents and staff. Six new cases inside the facility were reported on May 23.
With 73 patients currently residing at Crystal Health, the facility owner said last week that test results for 57 residents were negative.
On May 21, the facility issued a message to family and friends amid growing concerns over safety and issues over communication. The facility, in its statement, said the residents who have tested positive are in isolation, with dedicated employees taking care of them. Since the pandemic, the facility said it has ample supplies of PPE.
The statement also addresses the phone system after numerous complaints sparked over dropped calls and busy signals. The facility says it installed a brand new phone system with a designated hotline for family to call for updates.
In consultation with various agencies, a retesting of all patients and staff was conducted.
After the first case was reported at the facility, a state strike team entered the facility to conduct some 150 tests. As results came back, those found positive were notified, as well as their families. But a number of families had heard nothing for more than a week. Some waited as long as 12 days with results still waiting from a commercial lab. Among those awaiting results back was Jennifer Baker, mother of 30-year-old Brittany, who resides at the facility.
Baker told U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell during a May 19 meeting that she was told her daughter’s results were inconclusive as they were “damaged.” She said the communication at the outset from the administration at the facility has been “honestly disgusting,” while testing has been a “joke.” She also said staff aren’t wearing gowns and face shields.
No visitors are currently allowed inside the facility with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The health department says the female who passed away from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions. The four COVID-19 deaths reported in Monroe County were among those who had underlying conditions, per the health department.