PARK FOREST, Ill. - Governor JB Pritzker says from the beginning, he’s had an eye on our senior centers. Despite statewide efforts to protect them, COVID-19 cases have risen at an alarming rate at some Chicago-area homes.
An ambulance made its way out of the state-run Elisabeth Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest Saturday where 110 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Once the infection gets in, it becomes one of the hardest things to control so one of our thrusts going forward is to get at facilities that don’t have any identified cases and see if we can work additionally to see if we can prevent the introduction in those situations,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.
The Illinois National Guard’s 183rd wing is being called up for an important mission in Park Forest. Everyday they’ll be taking temperatures, four times a day for the workers. Still, doctors fear that may not be enough to stop the outbreak because someone with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic.
“Not just screening for symptoms, but screening with testing plays an important role and I think once we have access to quality testing that is highly specific and sensitive, then we can weed out anyone who has an infection, and is a carrier, but is not exhibiting symptoms,” said Dr. Rajeev Kumar, Medical Director of Burgess Square in Westmont, speaking on behalf of the Healthcare Council of Illinois and Illinois Healthcare Association.
Pritzker says early on, he called the governors of states that were seeing nursing home outbreaks and asked for advice.
“I mean way back then nursing homes were locked down in a sense of no visitors. We were taking temperatures of everybody entering, checking on everyone in the facility, we were doing testing when there were a couple of new cases that could be identified,” said Governor Pritzker.
The state has a strike team that goes to places like the Elisabeth Ludeman Center to see if, among other things, PPE are being used correctly.
“It’s very hard to deal with congregate settings – to move them out is a challenge – families can’t take a positive COVID-19 family member back into their home,” said Pritzker.
The governor announced Illinois will make nursing home coronavirus data public. That includes both resident and staff cases. It’s expected to go online as early as this weekend.