For more than a month, the Florida Department of Health says it has been unable to obtain confirmation from Belize on the cause of death for a 2-year-old boy who attended a Miami daycare center, where one other child died of meningitis in December.
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the health department, said the agency closed the investigation into the YWCA Carol Glassman Donaldson Childcare Center on Jan. 31.
“After repeated attempts to obtain information from Belize to no avail, we have closed the investigation,” she said in an email.
But an attorney representing the family of the 2-year-old boy, who died in Belize on Dec. 10, said he has an autopsy report from that country confirming the child had meningitis — and that the health department never contacted him about its investigation.
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Todd Michaels, who declined to name the boy who died in Belize, said he was “flabbergasted” that the health department had not followed up with him.
“Our hope is they still have the ability to do a full and thorough investigation and the people who are responsible are held accountable,” Michaels said.
Two children who attended the center died in December, setting off alarms among parents and public health workers. The first child, 22-month-old Connor Mincey of Miami, died on Dec. 3 and was initially thought to have pneumonia before doctors confirmed the boy had pneumococcal meningitis, a highly contagious disease.
The second child died in Belize a week later, and he also was thought to have pneumonia, according to a statement at the time from the head of epidemiology for the state health department’s office in Miami-Dade.
State officials said all of the children at the daycare, which is located at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, had received the required vaccines, including one that protects against pneumococcal meningitis, an infectious disease caused by a common bacteria that spreads through sneezing, coughing and direct contact with the saliva or mucus of infected persons.
After confirming that Connor had meningitis, the state health department said it needed laboratory evidence confirming that the child who died in Belize also had the disease before the agency could conclude whether an outbreak occurred at the daycare.
But the state closed its investigation without establishing whether the boys got the illness at the center.
The daycare center — which closed Dec. 12 after the deaths of the two boys — reopened on Dec. 26, said Jessica Sims, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families, which regulates child daycare centers.
Administrators for YWCA Miami did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
On Tuesday, after Michaels, the attorney, called the health department, Gambineri said in an email that the agency is “certainly interested” in acquiring a copy of the autopsy report.
“We’ve previously requested this information from the family and health authorities in Belize,” Gambineri said, “but as mentioned we did not receive a response.”
Gambineri said the health department will review the documents from Michaels and then decide whether to reopen the investigation.
State officials first looked into the possibility that meningitis was spreading at the daycare in December.
A DCF incident report dated Dec. 15 noted that the child welfare agency had received an abuse report alleging that Connor had gotten the disease at the facility.
The report does not identify the source of the complaint, but there’s evidence that administrators and state officials were aware of a possible outbreak of meningitis at the center prior to the boys’ deaths.
On Dec. 1 — two days before Connor died — parents picking up their children at the daycare said they were given a sheet of paper with a warning — “Don’t Ignore the Signs of Meningitis” — but nothing else.
That same day DCF inspectors had made an ominous finding: The daycare had no place to isolate sick children from healthy ones. The daycare center passed a reinspection on Dec. 22, after administrators designated an isolation area for sick children.
Then, on Dec. 7, the health department sent a letter to parents of children at the daycare stating that “a child” who attended the childcare center had been diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis.
The health department’s letter did not reveal that one child, Connor, had already died on Dec. 3.