By Joe Mahr Chicago Tribune|May 30, 2020 at 12:12 PM
An additional 345 residents and workers at Illinois’ long-term care facilities have died of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 2,747, according to state data released Friday.
The latest figures from the Illinois Department of Public Health continue to show — even as the state begins to reopen — how devastating the pandemic has been for facilities housing elderly and frail residents.
At least 129 facilities are now tied to at least 10 or more deaths, the data shows. Over the past month, long-term care facilities have grown to account for more than half of the virus’s total death toll in Illinois.
The hardest hit facilities continue to be in the Chicago area, led by Meadowbrook Manor of Bolingbrook with 40 deaths, Villa at Windsor Park (37), Niles Nursing and Rehab Center (33), Woodbridge Nursing Pavilion (33), Peterson Park Health Care (31) and Norridge Gardens (30).
Case figures also jumped an additional 15% from a week earlier, to now tally 17,133 confirmed COVID-19 infections at 535 facilities across 41 counties. Elisabeth Ludeman Developmental Center in Forest Park has the most, with 316 cases, followed by City View Multi-Care Center (243), Woodbridge Nursing Pavilion (218), Symphony at Midway (211) and Peterson Park Health Care (202).
Industry representatives have told the Tribune they’ve done the best they can to weather an unprecedented pandemic to which their facilities were particularly vulnerable.
The figures reinforce the deadly impact of the virus on long-term care facilities that have struggled at times to obtain enough caregivers and protective gear, helping fuel complaints the state should be doing more to protect residents and workers with a more coordinated effort.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker made testing a priority at nursing homes on April 20, a time when the number of deaths tied to long-term care facilities was reported to be 286 — roughly a tenth of the number reached six weeks later.
But the state has struggled in its effort to test residents and staff at all facilities — reaching only a fifth of the homes before Thursday, when Pritzker announced that the facilities would need to take responsibility for the testing.
Pritzker, who noted that some homes had already arranged for testing on their own, said the new rule was needed because other facilities were refusing state help.
It remains unclear how many facilities have tested all residents and staff at least once, when facilities must comply with the new state rule, and how often they should retest to ensure the virus doesn’t creep in.
A state public health spokeswoman said within two weeks, each facility must provide the state a plan for testing that should be shared with residents and their families. The plan could include details on follow-up testing, she said, and regardless, state or local health officials could order repeat testing.
Also Friday, the state released a new metric to show which homes were having recent outbreaks, and which ones appear to have weathered them. According to the data, 30 homes no longer have active outbreaks, which the state has defined as someone testing positive for the virus in the past 28 days.
Last week, the state initially released figures on places with current outbreaks but reversed course a day later after complaints the figures wouldn’t allow people to fully research the extent the virus had been in a facility.