NBC 6 Investigators

Hialeah Task Force Finds PPE Shortages at Senior Care Facilities

The city of Hialeah could soon spend thousands of dollars after an NBC 6 investigation uncovered deadly COVID-19 hotspots at local senior care facilities

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The city of Hialeah's task force looking into COVID-19 outbreaks at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities found access to personal protective equipment is still a concern. 

Members of the task force, which includes the city’s fire department, went to all the 94 long-term care facilities in the area and found 20 reported PPE shortages: 15 needed gowns, 14 needed masks and face shields and 12 needed gloves.

“A lot of the smaller mom and pop ones don’t have the means or maybe don’t know how to get them. There’s a backlog not only with their orders but with the state getting their supply to them,” said the city’s Fire Chief Willians Guerra. 

An NBC 6 Investigation found the Hialeah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had more than 240 COVID-19 cases earlier this summer - making it one of the worst outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the state. According to the Florida Department of Health’s most recent count, the facility now has two residents and one staff member positive. Many residents have been transferred out of the facility. 

City leaders said they needed to do more to fill gaps left by the state, which regulates long-term care centers in Florida.

Hialeah Councilman Jesus Tundidor, who leads the task force, tells NBC 6 the city plans to divert $30,000 to $40,000 to supply the smaller facilities with adequate equipment. 

“I think the only way we get through a crisis is in unison. So if we have that attitude that the state will deal with that, the county will deal with that, then I’m a believer that people will get hurt and people will get infected,” Tundidor said

Out of the 94 facilities the task force visited, 25 reported positive coronavirus cases. City leaders say that’s down from 31 a few weeks ago. 

The city of Hialeah as a whole still has the fifth most cases of coronavirus in the state - with 18,322. Hialeah is the sixth largest city in the state. 

Tundidor says now they know what the reality is for personal protective equipment, they will take similar steps to expand testing at senior care facilities starting this week.

The councilman implores people to socially distance and to wear masks - that, he says, is what will get the city out of crisis. 

“We’re doing all the testing. We’re talking about PPE. We’re finding ways to facilitate PPE. So the last two things are just education and enforcement,” Tundidor said. 

With Hialeah putting more resources into this problem, this will only add to the debate here in South Florida over whether Miami-Dade County should reimburse cities for their work. That debate is still raging and could end in lawsuits between Miami-Dade County and the League of Cities. 

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