PLANTATION, Fla. – Parents are outraged and flabbergasted after taking their children for lice treatment — only to find out that the very same facility was also being used as a COVID-19 testing center.
Local 10 News went into Lice Troopers in Plantation with a hidden camera, and now the Florida Department of Health is investigating.
A parent who asked not to be identified thought she was simply taking her daughter to be screened for head lice.
She had a confirmed appointment and walked into Lice Troopers on Sunrise Boulevard to see a waiting room full of people.
“And some of them didn’t have masks on. I was expecting to see kids. Because it was a lice place,” she said.
Instead, what she walked into was a small waiting room full of adults, and she found out they were waiting to be tested for COVID-19.
“I walked through all the patients standing there and I saw a nurse,” the woman said. “She was wearing scrubs. And I asked her where is the lice place and she said, ‘It’s right here.’
“So I said, ‘Are they going to be doing swabbing and hair at the same time?’ And she looked at me and said, ‘Wait, they didn’t tell you? At that point, I took my daughter and said don’t touch anything and go outside.”
“I was just freaked out, the mother added.
We found angry social media posts from parents about the facility. Local 10 News reached out to two parents, and they too asked not to be identified.
One parent said that while her children sat, being treated for three hours, an employee went back and forth.
“She stopped two times seeing my daughter to do the COVID test on other people,” the parent wrote in a post. “I left the place without ending the treatment. ... I went there for treatment to get the lice out and the only thing I got was the risk of catching COVID.”
Another parent we spoke to wrote: “How reckless can you be? Completely horrified by this.”
Local 10 News visited Lice Troopers to ask employees, “Is this really a good idea?”
An employee declined to comment when asked multiple questions before our cameras were ordered out.
Employees got the owner on the phone who was headed to another store in Orlando. Arie Harel claims COVID and lice patients were never together in his facility.
“They are in two separate areas,” he said. “We have two different spaces. ... We don’t have lice removal clients waiting at the facility.”
We told him that wasn’t true, and we had been in there watching.
“We schedule the appointments separately,” Harel said. “And there are different hours.”
Harel claimed lice and COVID appointments were spaced 15 minutes apart, but Local 10 went in with a hidden camera and clearly saw lice patients and COVID patients in waiting areas at the same time.”
Plus, you would need to walk through the COVID area to get to the lice area.
“If you think it is a good idea to have young children, lice patients walk thru a COVID testing area, I can tell you the experts think you are wrong,” we told Harel.
“No one said that is a good idea,” he said, saying he would reach out to his staff and rectify the issue if there was an overlap.
Local 10 News contacted the Florida Department of Health, which said they would be looking into the situation immediately.
The health department sent inspectors in, issued a notice of violation for operating without a biomedical waste permit.
We are told the Department of Health is investigating the company’s other locations outside Broward County.
Technically, there aren’t rules outright prohibiting this type of practice.
We asked Dr. Bindu Mayi, a professor of microbiology who teaches about infectious diseases at Nova Southeastern University, if parents have the right to be concerned about this situation.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Absolutely. Yes, definitely.”
“It is not a good idea,” Mayi said, “to have children who I imagine most are unvaccinated be in the same little office as people who are getting tested for COVID.
“What that is doing is giving the virus an opportunity to hop onto a vulnerable person.”
After Local 10′s inquiries, Harel says he has stopped doing lice treatments altogether at his facility.
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