The State of Florida has filed paperwork in court to suspend the license of a Hialeah assisted living facility over coronavirus concerns.
The 67-bed long-term care facility called Salmos 23 on East 5th Street sat empty on Monday, after staff were sent home to quarantine and residents were transferred to other senior living facilities.
According to an emergency suspension order, state investigators said that by mid-May, 47 residents from Salmos went to the hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections.
One of the major reasons was staff were not wearing proper personal protective equipment when they cared for the elderly and disabled residents, the order said. One of the eight residents who tested positive for the coronavirus, state inspectors wrote, was the staff member responsible for taking the temperatures of everyone coming in and out.
With Florida allowing businesses to reopen, it shows the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration is not letting up regulating and watching long-term care facilities, which have been hotbeds for the contagious COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Frankie Romero has lived next to Salmos 23 for nearly 10 years and said he thought he would live there one day. He thought it was a clean place and a pretty place.
“It’s live-able,” said Romero, surprised that the state shut the place down when they were in the middle of renovations.
The state’s shutdown order states that staff “wore no personal protective equipment,” residents and staff “were not wearing masks,” and were “not observing social distancing practices" in particular in the television room.
State regulators wrote these were not “isolated events” instead reflective of the operation and management of the facility.
The owner, Odelmys Bello, sent NBC 6 a statement.
“Right now everything is in the hands of the company’s lawyers," the statement read. "Everything that is happening unfairly hurts me because we workers in assisted living centers are also on the battlefront, we are health workers just like hospitals with the difference that we are not recognized that they never give us credit for the beautiful work we do every day. We also expose ourselves to this invisible enemy that we face worldwide.”
The Florida National Guard started strike teams to test staff and residents at hard-hit senior living centers. Bello said the state came by to test residents at Salmos 23 once, when the pandemic started. Since then, she says, it’s been up to the company to buy tests because the government and the laboratories are delayed.
This is the latest serious case in South Florida assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Throughout this pandemic in Florida nearly three out of every four deaths from the virus have happened in long term care facilities.