The Pinellas County Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed the deaths of two additional residents from Pinellas County nursing homes.
They say 95-year-old Clayton Snare from St. Marks and 92-year-old Tango Jessee from Freedom Square have died from COVID-19.
This brings the total deaths from COVID-19 at Freedom Square to eight.
Officials with Pinellas County say the Florida National Guard deployed to the Freedom Square nursing home Friday to help the facility test all of its residents and employees.
Freedom Square’s executive director announced last week in a press release that all 700 of their residents and employees were in the process of being tested. However, some family members of residents in the facility say that was not the case.
Barbara and Stuart Namias said they pressured the facility for days to test Barbara’s mother so they could take her out of the facility.
“It’s been a struggle, but Wednesday was the nightmare of nightmares trying to get information and to get her tested. It was like we were running into a brick wall every place we went. They just kept fussing and yelling that there was nothing they could do, the doctor wouldn’t let the testing be done,” said Barbara Namias.
The Namias’s said the doctor at Freedom Square originally told them that Barbara’s mother would not be tested because she did not have any symptoms of the coronavirus.
Barbara said she was finally able to get them to test her mother, after persistent phone calls to the facility, and Barbara’s mother’s test results came back negative.
Freedom Square's executive director Michael Mason said in a statement, "Testing continues to be available to all employees at various locations in our local area in addition to the National Guard’s arrival today, April 24."
Mason said as of Friday, 35 employees have tested positive, 233 have tested negative and 179 are pending.
Mason did not comment on whether or not all residents were being tested.
Meanwhile, Terri Terzini-Minichillo, a local Tampa Bay woman, says her husband, who was a resident at Freedom Square, died from COVID-19, and Freedom Square hasn’t contacted her.
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Terri said she was unable to get information out of Freedom Square even before news broke of the COVID-19 cases at the facility.
Kimberly Lear, another local woman, says her father, also a resident at Freedom Square, died from COVID-19 at a hospital in Largo. Lear said she was used to speaking with her father, Christopher B. Pugh, nearly every day.
But in mid-March, when the governor announced the closure of nursing homes to outside visitors, Kimberly said the calls got shorter, and eventually the calls to her dad didn’t happen at all.
She said Freedom Square wasn’t letting her know what was going on. It wasn’t until last week, Kim found out on the news that residents at Freedom Square were being evacuated. Her father was one of them.
Kimberly said her father tested positive for COVID-19 at the hospital, and just two days ago, he passed away.
“I asked her [the nurse] to tell him that we said we loved him and we missed him, couldn’t wait to see him, hope he got better soon, and he gave us a thumbs up, then she reached down and asked if he wanted to say ‘I love you,' and he mumbled the words I love you, and that was the last thing I heard,” said Lear.
Kimberly said in a facility where they were paying more than $10,000 a month for her father to live, she would have expected more communication.
“I think they should’ve been a little more forthcoming with information when they sent him, and then I feel that they should have called to say, ‘how is your dad doing?’ And when he died, they didn’t call to say ‘I’m sorry’,” said Lear.
Even to this day, Kimberly says Freedom Square has not reached out.
We reached out to Freedom Square for a statement regarding this, and so far have not heard back.