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Opera House Hotel Slams City's Response to Legionnaires' Outbreak

By  Eddie Small and Jeff Mays | August 11, 2015 2:33pm 

 The Opera House Hotel has issued a statement sharply criticizing the city's response to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the South Bronx.
The Opera House Hotel has issued a statement sharply criticizing the city's response to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the South Bronx.
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Anton K. Nilsson/DNAinfo

SOUTH BRONX — The Opera House Hotel, which tested positive for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease, blasted the city over its response to the outbreak in the South Bronx that has killed 12 people and infected at least 115 others.

The hotel management later softened their criticism but still made clear that information from the city about the epidemic was inadequate.

Glenn Isaacs, vice president of the Empire Hotel Group, originally said that city health officials provided inadequate information about the outbreak despite the hotel's full compliance with the orders of public health officials.

"When we have heard from city officials, they have been low level people who called to tell us they don't have access to information," he wrote. "It has been a frustrating experience, to say the least."

After a conference call with health officials Tuesday afternoon, hotel management said they were better informed.

"We now have better if incomplete information about the potential of Legionnaires' disease at our hotel," Isaacs wrote in an updated statement.

Isaacs had vented his frustration over an article in The New York Times on Monday in which an anonymous health official was quoted saying that the Opera House Hotel was the most likely source of the outbreak, while qualifying that the findings were still preliminary.

"It's outrageous that these officials would offer little more than speculation to the Times, while admitting in the same article that the information could be wrong," he wrote. "We are deeply concerned that there has been a rush to judgment as part of some game of one-upmanship between City and State officials."

After the conference call with city officials, Isaacs said that the city could not confirm that the hotel was the source of the outbreak.

"First, the officials made clear they could not confirm the wild speculation from anonymous sources in the media today that cited the hotel as the original source of the disease in The Bronx," Issacs said in his statement. "We made it clear to the DOH we viewed these statements as completely inappropriate, even reckless. We hope the information is wrong but did not get answers to that question today."

City officials told the hotel that test results on where the outbreak started would not be available until Wednesday.

"We trust we will get those results directly from DOH and not through the media," Issacs said.

The hotel management also clarified that two people, not three, had been sickened by the disease, and neither of those people have died.

However, three people have gotten sick at The Brook, a supportive and low-income housing facility located near the hotel, and Walter James, a 69-year-old resident, passed away after contracting the disease, sources said.

During a press conference at the SHOPP Leon Senior Center on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio was largely dismissive of criticisms from the Opera House Hotel's management.

"I don't know why there's such great concern for the owner of a hotel when we are talking about a disease outbreak that's affecting so many people. That's our concern," he said.

Additionally, despite the reference in Isaacs' original statement to a "game of one-upmanship between City and State officials" over handling the outbreak, de Blasio declined to answer questions how his relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo was affecting the response to the disease.

"We are focused on this outbreak," he said. "Not personalities, not politics."