A child at a downtown Miami daycare center has died of suspected meningitis and a second toddler died seven days later in a health scare that prompted the closure Tuesday of the facility steps away from Miami-Dade County’s main government building.
A 22-month-old boy died on Dec. 3 and was initially thought to have pneumonia before the doctor treating the child concluded it was meningitis, said Dr. Reynald Jean, the head of epidemiology for the state health department’s office in Miami-Dade. A second child from YWCA Carol Glassman Donaldson Center Day Care, a 2-year-old boy, died Dec. 10 after being diagnosed with pneumonia, Jean said. He said the state hasn’t confirmed either diagnosis, and that lab tests should soon reveal whether either child contracted meningitis.
“It’s still under investigation,” Jean said. “We’re not sure yet if both cases are meningitis. … It is flu season.
“We don’t know if the two cases are related. It could be a coincidence.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, workers wearing protective gloves were seen wiping playground equipment outside the daycare center and blocks inside the center.
Four days after the first child died, parents at the center received a letter from the state saying a child at the facility “was recently diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis.” The Dec. 7 letter did not mention the child had died. Jean said state medical staff met with parents at the center the day the letter was issued.
“We told them the child had passed,” Jean said. “But they already knew about it.”
The YWCA closed the daycare center Tuesday, and statements from regulators and county officials said the center won’t reopen until cleared by the state. Kerry-Ann Royes, director of YWCA Miami, said she decided to close the center as a precaution and that state officials had not advised the nonprofit to shut down after the suspected death from meningitis.
“At the time, the health department did not advise us we had to close,” she said.
“We’re just devastated by this,” Royes continued. “These are our babies.”
The YWCA rents space from Miami-Dade at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center at 111 NW First St.
In a statement, Miami-Dade’s Internal Services Department, which oversees building operations, said it worked with the YWCA “to ensure that every step has been taken … to notify parents and follow all recommendations.”
The Dec. 7 state letter urged parents to watch their children for symptoms of meningitis, which include fever, severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, drowsiness and confusion.
Jean said both children had received the required vaccinations for the daycare center, which included a pneumonia vaccine. But he said meningitis vaccines typically aren’t recommended until a child is 11. He noted that meningitis is treatable if caught early.
In a statement, Florida’s Department of Children and Families, which regulates daycare centers, wrote: “We are devastated by the death of two small children who attended this child care facility and we continue to grieve with their families and loved ones.” The agency said the center will remain closed until the state clears it for reopening after an investigation.