A home health aide in New Jersey accused of failing to self-isolate after undergoing a coronavirus screening is facing criminal charges after five people in a household where she worked tested positive for the coronavirus.
An 80-year-old female patient ultimately died from COVID-19 complications, state officials said.
Josefina Brito-Fernandez, 49, is facing five charges of endangering the welfare of others, according to a complaint filed by Camden County, N.J., prosecutors.
Brito-Fernandez got tested April 16 for the coronavirus after feeling under the weather. She did not disclose these details to her patient or the patient’s family, New Jersey authorities said.
A statement by the state attorney general and New Jersey State Police said, “Once she was tested, Brito-Hernandez was told to self-isolate — even before her results came back — because she had been in contact with someone who was suspected to be positive for COVID-19 (and who ultimately was found to be positive).”
The next day she returned to the home where part of her role was to take care of “an elderly and sick female patient,” the complaint said.
“Over the next few days,” the complaint continued, “defendant’s patient contracted the COVID-19 virus and became hospitalized, ultimately succumbing to the virus and dying. Additionally, (four) other victims who live with the deceased victim became ill.”
The complaint went on to suggest Brito-Fernandez understood the risks she was taking by continuing to work. She received literature, in both English and Spanish, according to the complaint, though she said she did not read the information.
She reportedly told detectives “that she understood that COVID-19 was a serious illness, and that the elderly are at an increased risk of severe illness,” including her patient.
It is unclear if Brito-Fernandez tested positive for the coronavirus. The Camden County prosecutor’s office declined to confirm her status, citing privacy laws.
The statement from the New Jersey authorities said Brito-Fernandez “went to work on April 17 as usual and did not wear a face mask or any other personal protective equipment.”
The statement added that the aide could be seen in-home surveillance video, feeding her patient as well as giving her a sponge bath and taking vital signs.
Brito-Fernandez has not been arrested, and no court date has been set, officials said.
The next steps include a pre-indictment conference, and if no resolution is reached, prosecutors will present evidence to a grand jury.
The spread of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc in New Jersey. As of Monday afternoon, the state’s Department of Health reported more than 148,000 confirmed cases and in excess of 10,000 deaths.
Read the complaint here: