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'I didn’t know if I should stay at home ... and maybe go to jail': COVID-19 patient ordered to return to rehab

10 Investigates has uncovered a local drug treatment facility that has seen more than two dozen coronavirus cases.

TAMPA, Fla. — Since the Coronavirus outbreak began, 10Investigates has been searching for the largest outbreaks to find out why certain places are being hit so hard by the pandemic.

We’ve told you about the 524 nursing homes across the state that have seen a deadly surge of cases. Now, we're taking a look at substance abuse treatment facilities – places people go to get a new start.

10Investigates has uncovered one local residential facility that has racked up more than two dozen positive cases.

Residents there are questioning the way the facility is handling quarantine procedures.

“I’m in a quarantine with one other person. But I’m still in same building as everybody, still using same bathrooms,” Jason Sink told 10Investigates Jennifer Titus.

“I tested positive last Wednesday." 

Sink is undergoing treatment at the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office in Tampa, also known as DACCO. He's staying in the men’s section, which, according to DACCO's website, has 132 beds, four large dorm areas and is following social distancing guidelines.

A National Guard strike team visited the facility on April 29, 2020 to test for COVID-19. Since that visit, 25 residents and two staff members have tested positive.

The Department of Health initially told 10Investigates there was only one resident with COVID-19 at the facility.

After 10Investigates started asking questions to DAACO and state agencies, we received video from Sink, who said it was taken as he and other COVID-19 positive residents were moved from DACCO to a hotel in Hillsborough County. 

The Department of Health confirms 11 residents were transferred from DACCO.

“It started with the body ache," George Arroyo explained to 10Investigates.

Arroyo said he was moved from DACCO to the COVID Hotel and has been there for more than a week now. Like many others, his treatment is not court-ordered. He went to DACCO voluntarily.

“It was for alcoholism," Arroyo explained.

He joined the four-month program to get his life back on track and had no idea he would be put in a place with COVID-19 patients.

“I tested positive for Coronavirus," Arroyo said.

He said he was shocked when he heard a person who tested positive at the hospital was able to come back to the facility to quarantine.

“That person had to use the same communal bathrooms as the rest of us," Arroyo explained.

Sink said he was just as stunned when his probation officer told him he had to return to DACCO after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Paperwork from Tampa General Hospital shows his positive test results.

“The Department of Health had ordered me to stay at home isolation, not supposed to see someone until May 11th," Sink explained.

He claimed he received text messages from his probation officer saying he had to report back to DACCO, or the probation officer was going to submit a violation. We reached out to the probation officer at the number on the text messages and were told by the officer she could not comment. 

She referred us to the Department of Corrections.

“I didn’t know if I should stay at home like the DOH order and maybe go to jail or not do what DOH says and come here," Sink said.

10investigates reached out to the Department of Corrections about this incident and was told:

“Offenders assigned to DACCO in-patient rehabilitation facility have been instructed, if they test positive for COVID-19 or come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, to medically isolate or quarantine at the facility in order to prevent a violation of their court-ordered terms of supervision and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the community. If an offender requires medical care, they will receive it. This decision was made in conjunction with DACCO and DOH.”

Jail time or quarantine? Sink said he didn’t have any other option but to return.

The Department of Corrections does not operate DACCO. We did ask if they provide guidelines for quarantine or inspect facilities where offenders are ordered to report. We'll let you know when we get a response.

The Agency of HealthCare Administration oversees residential treatment facilities. 10Investigates has asked if it's tracking cases in these facilities, but we haven't received an answer.

We also reached out to DAACO for an online interview about its positive cases and its handling of them. DAACO denied our request for an interview but Catherine Munch, the Director of Marketing & Development, sent us this statement:

"DACCO Behavioral Health has been working with the Department of Health to keep our patients and staff healthy and safe. Last week DOH coordinated testing in our men’s residential program. Results were received yesterday. DACCO worked with the Department of Health to develop a plan for patients that tested positive for COVID. There are currently no positive cases residing in our men’s residential program. DACCO continues to work with the Department of Health in implementing best practices for our patients and staff."

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