Governor Pritzker orders testing requirements at Illinois nursing homes

Many Illinois nursing homes and long-term care facilities are being hit hard by the coronavirus, and now, Governor JB Pritzker is ordering new testing protocols for staff and residents.

There have been 286 deaths reported at long-term care facilities statewide. At Symphony in Joliet, the mayor is calling it a nightmare scenario with 81 cases and 23 deaths being reported at their facility.

“We had no idea our fire department was transporting… [they weren’t] reporting all these deaths,” said Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk.

Mayor O’Dekirk is now calling for an investigation.

“I think health department officials need to go in and see what happened…the number of deaths were not matching up,” he said.

The mayor also says he has heard the outbreak in Joliet’s nursing homes started as early as January.

Meanwhile, there are now 218 COVID-19 cases in Will County nursing homes. Presence Villa Franciscan has 40 cases and six deaths.

“We’ve been frustrated by slowness to action when it’s been known [that] very big nursing homes would be hit hardest by this virus,” said Pat Comstock of Health Care Council of Illinois. “Nursing homes should’ve been prioritized a long time ago.”

Governor Pritzker says nursing homes are a top priority. Now, facilities with and without confirmed cases of COVID-19 will begin testing all residents and staff -- not just taking their temperatures.

“This testing at non-COVID facilities will allow us to identify early the presence of COVID-19 in a facility and isolate those cases before widespread transmission,” the governor said.

“The news testing protocol will definitely help us to ID someone that might be a carrier, but is asymptomatic,” Comstock said.

Symphony Nursing Home in Joliet would not make someone available for an interview on Monday, but did release a statement saying they have brought on two healthcare experts to help them fight the pandemic.