Olga Rodriguez spent the last days of her life sending kisses over video calls to her husband. In mid-May, her family says she tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to records provided by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner, she died a month later from complications of the virus.
Rodriguez’s granddaughter, Daylet Collazo, received the news on June 23.
“I felt the deepest sadness that I ever felt in my life. My heart sunk. It broke in half. They took away the most beautiful person in my life,” Collazo said.
She tells NBC 6 she believes her grandmother contracted the virus when staff at the Hialeah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center shuffled residents around to create specific COVID-19 units, per state regulations.
State records show the Hialeah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has the most cases of the coronavirus and the second most deaths out of all the long-term care facilities in the state.
Rodriguez’s family told us they cannot have an in-person funeral due to the pandemic.
“The saddest part is the way that it happened. We weren’t able to go and give her a last kiss or tell her that we loved her or close that chapter - and we still cannot,” Collazo said.
In an email, the facility’s administrator said it was “not true” Rodriguez caught the virus when they implemented their COVID-19 specific units. She went on to say the facility followed all the guidelines and protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Agency for Health Care Administration. The nursing home would not comment on Rodriguez’s specific case citing patient privacy requirements.
State data shows the coronavirus has spread throughout the city. Hialeah is the sixth largest city in Florida and has the fifth most cases of coronavirus at 5,161. The pure number of long-term care facilities and the vulnerable populations within them has city leaders worried. They say three nursing homes and 91 assisted living facilities are within city limits.
“We are bound to find issues, right? The more we test. The more we identify and really zero in on these facilities,” said Hialeah City Council and Chair of the LTC COVID Recovery Task force, Jesus Tundidor.
City emergency crews will now visit all the long-term care facilities in the city, check in with what they need, and tap into county and state money to supply them. If the resources are not enough, city leaders say they will dedicate money it received from the CARES Act Congress passed earlier this year to deal with the crisis.
Emergency crews with the city visited Revival Home Inc. on Tuesday and went through a checklist with the facility administrator, Janet Suarez.
“This is very hard to get by. You know, we’ve been able to buy gloves by ourselves,” said Suarez, pointing to her personal protective gown, paid for by the city of Hialeah. Suarez is the owner and administrator of Revival Home Inc. She says it’s still hard for facilities to purchase protective gear on the free market.
Tundidor says it will take three weeks to go to all the 94 long-term care facilities in the city. The city does not have the power to issue fines to facilities over medical management issues; that’s only a power for the State of Florida’s regulatory agencies. The goal is to find out what is needed by long-term care facilities and then connect them with supplies.