A senior living operator has been fined $10,500, but avoided a move to have its Florida operating license revoked, because a state health inspector said that a community did not provide a “safe and decent living environment” and placed memory care residents at “imminent risk” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the investigator’s findings were that the doors to the rooms of COVID-positive residents were open and that the residents were seen wandering the memory care unit.

Following a Feb. 15 inspection by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the Watermark at Trinity, an independent living, assisted living and memory care community in Trinity, FL, was cited for failing to isolate three asymptomatic but COVID-positive memory care residents, failing to implement its infection control policies and procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus, and failing to comply with background screening standards.

The community denied the allegations but reached a settlement with the state, which originally had sought to revoke Watermark’s license to operate an assisted living community in the state.

Parent company Watermark Retirement Communities’ spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living that the Watermark at Trinity is in compliance with Florida AHCA requirements and “continues to serve our residents with our commitment to their well-being.”

“The dedicated team at the Watermark at Trinity conducts rigorous infection control practices established by Watermark per [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines and conducts ongoing training for all associates to keep our residents safe,” the spokesperson said.

According to the settlement, the 117-bed community “failed to provide care and services appropriate to resident needs, including supervision.” The investigator noted that the doors to the rooms of three residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were open and that the residents were seen wandering the memory care unit, placing other residents at “imminent risk” of exposure to the virus.

The investigator also noted that used personal protective equipment, including gowns and gloves, were found in the hallway in an unsealed hazardous waste bag outside the room of a COVID-positive resident. Staff members also were seen interacting with both COVID-positive and uninfected residents in different units and did not always take proper precautions regarding personal protective equipment when entering or leaving resident rooms, the inspector said.

The agency charged the community with failing to provide care and service, failing to provide a safe and decent living environment to residents, failure to implement its infection control policies and procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus, failure to quarantine/isolate three asymptomatic and positive residents in its memory care unit, and failure to ensure that staff members and residents wore personal protective equipment to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

In addition, the community was cited for failing to comply with background screening standards. A direct care aide hired in November did not undergo the required background screening, according to the report.

The settlement includes the $10,500 fine and an agreement by the Watermark at Trinity to institute regular daily cleaning; review its infectious disease policy and procedures quarterly to ensure compliance with the use of PPE, proper hand hygiene and resident monitoring; ensure that dedicated staff members serve COVID-positive residents; and to provide staff training on hand hygiene, appropriate use of PPE, cohorting and caring for residents with dementia in a pandemic.