CHICAGO, IL – Officials of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) have reported at least 46 people, including residents and staff members, have tested positive for coronavirus at a DuPage county nursing home. This outbreak is the first in a long-term care facility in Illinois. Chicago’s WGN9 reported the first confirmed test of a Willowbrook resident by state health officials.
Within a matter of days, the virus spread to other members at Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Willowbrook, a southwestern suburb of Chicago. Forty-six people, thirty-three residents and 13 staff members – have all tested positive for the virus. Other residents are now isolated in another area of the facility as officials expect additional positive tests to come back within the near future.
Mayor Frank Trilla, said, “this could have happened anywhere.”
There haven’t been any unusual incidents at this nursing home before the outbreak, though the mayor noted that nursing homes are regulated by the state and not local government.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) established a new set of rules for nursing home facilities beginning on March 13. The critical new measures were designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The new set of rules directs facilities to to significantly restrict visitors and nonessential personnel, as well as restrict communal activities inside nursing homes, with exceptions for compassionate care, such as an end-of-life situation. All group activities and communal dining are canceled and be implementing active screening of residents and health care personnel for fever and respiratory symptoms. The only exception is for certain care situations, such as end-of-life situations. The new measures are CMS’s latest action to protect America’s seniors, who are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
The First Outbreak at a Nursing Home Facility
According to the CDC, seniors with multiple health conditions are at the highest risk for complications. There have been reports of large numbers of cases spreading rapidly through nursing homes, such as the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington. The New York Times reported two thirds of residents, 55 employees, and 14 visitors have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty five people have died, claiming 12 percent of staff and residents lives. These death totals make up nearly half of the coronavirus death toll in Washington. These numbers are expected to increase as tests become more available.
The Life Care Center stated, “Current residents and associates are being monitored closely, specifically for an elevated temperature, cough and/or shortness of breath.”
It’s not clear how the virus reached the facility; however, according to the New York Times the first reported case of coronavirus in the United States was from a man in nearby Snohomish County.
Officials of the Life Care Center, which operates more than 200 facilities in 28 states, are monitoring residents and workers closely.
The Outbreak Continues to Spread
Other than the outbreak in Kirkland, at least 15 others have died and dozens more have been infected at long-term care facilities across the nation. Major outbreaks include Willowbrook, Illinois with 46 infections, four deaths in at least two facilities in New Jersey, 13 infected in Little Rock Arkansas, and 11 infected in Troy, Ohio, with at least 30 more showing symptoms.
“Nursing homes would always have been ground zero, but given we already have a huge staff shortage, this will be magnified,” said, David Grabowski, a Harvard Medical School professor who has studied staffing storages in nursing homes. “It could be worse for today’s nursing home facilities than ever.”
The spread of COVID-19 in a nursing home can amplify when patients are transferred and when staff and visitors come and go. The CDC has said visitors and healthcare personnel are the most likely sources of introduction into long-term care facilities. In a recent report by CDC, the agency went on to say, “Limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities,” can contribute to an outbreak.
How to Keep Residents Safe
The CDC has made additional recommendations for nursing homes as they work to keep residents safe, including:
- Nursing homes should put alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60-95 percent alcohol in every resident room – both inside and outside the room if possible – and in every common area
- Sinks should be well-stocked with soap and paper towels for hand washing
- Tissues and facemasks must be available for people who are coughing
- Hospital grade disinfectants must be available to allow for frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces and shared resident equipment
More information on a full list of CDC’s guidance for nursing homes safety can be found here.
Counties in Illinois with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases:
- St. Clair
Any nursing home with residents suspected of having COVID-19 should contact their local health department immediately. To remain updated on long-term care and nursing home updates, please visit the CMS website.
Negligence Related to Coronavirus
If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication or missed a medical treatment provided by a nursing home or the understaffing in facility, we can help you. Please reach out to Dinizulu Law Group, a Chicago-based law firm with extensive experience in nursing home negligence. For a free consultation, please call (312) 384-1920.