Man who died of coronavirus visited Immokalee casino days before his death

Reporter: Justin Kase
Published: Updated:
Seminole Casino Hotel. Credit: WINK News.

A Lee County man who died of coronavirus visited the Immokalee Seminole Casino in the days before his death,  the company confirms.

Representative Heather Fitzenhagen is now calling for the casino to close down.

I think that this makes it even more important that they decide to do the right thing and close down the casino for the safety of everyone in Southwest Florida,” she said.

She says the 77-year old man spent hours playing the slots the weekend before he died on March 13.

The casino confirmed Thursday that the man was at the facility on March 3.

It has not been made public where the man contracted coronavirus or where else he may have visited.

The owners of the casino released the following statement:

“Seminole Casinos are open with many changes. The casinos have increased social distancing, rescheduled shows and other mass gathering events, closed their stand-alone bars and nightclubs, closed or reduced capacity of restaurants, instituted cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces, made hand sanitizer available at more locations and given team members the option to stay home and use paid time off, even if they have a zero balance of paid time off.

“More than half of all slot machines have been turned off to add significant distance between guests, plus the number of players allowed at table games has been reduced. And all of this has been accomplished while preserving the current income of the large majority of team members.”

We talked with an employee of the casino who says her co-workers not only remember the man who died, but remember speaking with him and even dealing to him.

Now, one local lawmaker, as well as the employee from the casino, are hoping to see it close temporarily to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.

“Some of the people actually remember dealing to him and remember him being in the casino. So that initially started to freak everybody out because like if that person sitting at your table and they had it, that’s a scary thought,” said the employee, who wished to remain anonymous.

We don’t know if the man was already sick when he entered the casino or if he contracted it there or at a later time, but the two employees who closely interacted with the man were notified immediately.

A spokesperson for the casino says they’re staying open but implementing numerous safety changes, things like closing many of their slot machines to promote social distancing, rescheduling events and ordering extra deep cleanings of their facilities.

“Although you may have done a sanitization of the area, you cannot possibly keep up as people come in and move from table to machine,” Fitzenhagen said.

The casino is allowing employees to leave work even if they don’t have paid time off. It means a loss of a paycheck, but this employee says it’s a sacrifice the casino should make instead.

“At least a temporary closure, so they can, like, sanitize everything because I know running for 24 hours is already hard to keep up with,” she said.

We did reach out to the family of the man who died. They did not want to comment on the situation.

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