Doctor at 'mask optional' clinic in Melbourne dies; tests positive for coronavirus post-mortem

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Tyler Vazquez Florida TodayPublished 7:24 PM EDT Sep 22, 2020Patients intending

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Patients intending to go to the Eau Gallie Medical Center in Melbourne this week have been met with a grim note at the door since Monday. 

"Dr. John J. Magri IV passed away on the morning of Wednesday September 16, 2020," it begins. "For the privacy of his family, patient's (sic) and loved ones, the cause of death is unknown at this time."

For former patients and neighbors the feeling has been one of shock and disbelief — and concern upon learning Magri tested positive for coronavirus after his death. 

"I don't even know what to say," said Malori Scrivner, a Melbourne Beach resident who walked up to the doors of the clinic Tuesday morning for her monthly check-in, only to find out her doctor had died. 

"I can't believe that, I just saw him last month," she said.

Elena Shokhina, director of the Brevard Ballet Academy next door in the plaza at 1403 Highland Ave., told FLORIDA TODAY  "he was amazing, he was my doctor." 

Magri, 59, was infected with the novel coronavirus when he died at home last week; a positive test result was confirmed by the Brevard County medical examiner's office post-mortem.

Investigator Craig Engelson said that a cause of death determination is not finalized, and noted Magri had other underlying health issues.

It is unclear if Magri knew if he was positive for the virus when he was seeing patients. Family and friends could not be reached Tuesday.

Learning that the coronavirus may have contributed to Magri's death added to Scrivner's surprise. 

"It's just amazing how fast it happens. I come once a month, I get my prescription. And, you know, he's a good guy. He was a good guy," she said, noting that this is her most direct experience with the coronavirus.  

Scrivner said she never noticed him or nurses in the office wearing masks. 

"I kind of liked that. It's the one place that we could go without feeling like, you know, it's the end of the world," she said, adding that she observed social distancing was taking place in the office.

Other former patients and neighbors noted that while beloved, Dr. Magri took a relatively relaxed approach to pandemic precautions, in particular wearing masks. 

Calls and visits to the clinic were unanswered Tuesday. 

Patient Amanda WIlliams of Indialantic noted in an email to FLORIDA TODAY she didn't see anyone wearing masks among the staff and did not notice any coronavirus signage posted when she visited with her daughter Sept. 12 — four days before Magri's death. 

"I felt very uneasy, but chose to stay in hopes that we would be in and out quickly. Once we were called back into the patient room, Dr. Magri introduced himself, without a mask and offered to shake my hand," she wrote.

Williams said she found out through a mutual friend that Magri had died and had tested positive for the virus post-mortem. She said she is concerned she has not been contacted by coronavirus contact tracers from the Department of Health. 

"My concern is community spread and the time it is taking to be notified by a contact tracer or office personnel from the Eau Gallie Medical Center," she said. "Our family has been tested and are self quarantining since Sept. 18, when we received the news that some of the staff had tested positive. We will continue to self quarantine until we hear the results of our tests." 

The Department of Health in Brevard County in an emailed statement said the department is "not able to comment on ongoing investigations or contact tracing results."

Melbourne Beach Police Chief Melanie Griswold and one other officer responded to the Sept. 16 call at Magri’s house and were subsequently informed by the medical examiner’s office of the positive test result, Chief Griswold told FLORIDA TODAY.

She said they wore personal protective equipment and that both she and the other officer have tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The police and medical examiner's investigation is ongoing, Griswold said. Reports were not completed.

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon and Tyler Vazquez are reporters for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Sassoon at 321-355-8144, or Twitter: @alemzs. Contact Vazquez at, 321-917-7491 or on Twitter @tyler_vazquez.
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