Coronavirus News: Family demands answers after they say Washington Heights nursing home under-reported COVID-19 numbers

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Toribio Garcia, Sr. was a health 62-years-old. He was a vegetarian and an avid runner. However, after a recent tracheotomy, he was transferred to the Isabella Geriatric Center in Washington Heights to keep him away from COVID-19 patients. He was there to rehab until he was strong enough to come home.

Just over a week later, he died alone.

"We had him get the tracheotomy because we knew that with that he would last longer. Nine days is not what we expected. Nine days is not enough. It was supposed to be temporary, and they failed us," said his daughter, Xiomara Garcia-King.

Garcia-King says in those nine days, her father would press the call bell, but no one would come to check on him.

He had trouble breathing, and couldn't speak because of the surgery, so he texted his family, or showed them notes during video chats.

On March 26th, he FaceTimed his daughter and showed her a note that said 'I need help."



Not even three hours later, the nursing home called her to tell her he was found unresponsive. He never made it to the hospital.

"On April 14th I came here because I was informed by my community that there was a freezer to store the dead right next door. So I came and I took photos of that. Subsequent to which I had a conversation with the board, pleading them and urging them to be transparent with the community and with families of seniors in this facility. They refused to do so," said Congressmember Adriano Espaillat.

Up until Friday, Isabella had ben reporting 13 COVID-19 deaths. However, after questions emerged about the true number, it now says the suspected number of deaths is 98 - the highest COVID-19 death toll at a single nursing home in the city.

Governor Cuomo is promising accountability, saying that if the numbers were misrepresented intentionally, this will be a criminal fraud case.

A nursing home spokesperson says it truthfully and accurately reported data to the health department.

It denies failing to keep families informed of their loved one's changing conditions, and says its staff reached out to allow families to say their final goodbyes.

Garcia-King says she was never told that Isabella even had COVID-19 cases. She doesn't know if her father even died of COVID-19.

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