Ken Loredo didn’t learn about the two dozen COVID-19 cases at the long-term care facility where his mother lives until the Illinois Department of Public Health released the data for the first time over the weekend.
“We hadn’t heard anything at all,” Loredo said. “I was pretty shocked.”
Loredo said his mother has had great therapy at Glenview Terrace, and the caretakers at the suburban facility have helped her get back on her feet.
“Just more transparency would be great,” Loredo said.
On Sunday, the Pritzker administration released details of the number of cases and deaths tied to each long-term care facility in Illinois.
The data — which can be searched here — highlights the extent of the pandemic’s reach inside the state’s nursing homes, showing at least 186 long-term care facilities in 22 counties reporting at least one case. In all, at least 1,860 cases can be tied to nursing homes, with 286 deaths. That’s nearly a fourth of all coronavirus deaths reported in Illinois.
At Glenview Terrace, the state reported 24 coronavirus cases and seven deaths.
Loredo said he talks to his mother daily. She had not said anything about coronavirus infections at the facility, he said, but told him about residents being moved around and others who died. “But she didn’t say why.”
About two weeks ago, Loredo’s mother was moved out of her room because her roommate had a fever, he said, along with a neighboring resident.
“I was like, OK, well I haven’t heard anything from the facility so maybe they’re OK,” he said. “Maybe this person is just sick. You know, it happens.”
But with the Sunday release of the data, Loredo is wondering if those residents were infected with the coronavirus.
“If that person that was in her room passed away from that, and my mother was in that room with her, I would have at least expected them, if possible, to let us know: Your mother was in a room with somebody that was positive so we’re going to be keeping an eye on her for a couple of weeks just to make sure,” Loredo said. “But nothing.”
Loredo said he’s still digesting the news, but he hopes the facility will give residents and affected families more information about cases among staff and residents.
“All of this time I was thinking, oh, well maybe they didn’t have any cases there,” he said. “Maybe they got lucky. Maybe they got ahead of it.”
Loredo said he would like to know if the facility is testing residents, including those who do not have symptoms, as well as how the facility is isolating residents who test positive.
He doesn’t want to worry his mother and hopes he will be able to visit again. “It’s just very, very hard on them,” he said. “It’s hard on us.”
In releasing the latest data, Illinois officials said they planned to boost testing and shore up staffing at nursing homes, while also defending their initial efforts to try to stem the virus.
Before the weekend, the state had told nursing homes they didn’t need to test anyone else once someone has tested positive at a facility. There are other ways residents and staff can — and have — gotten tested, explaining the multiple cases reported at so many facilities.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the state will now be sending more test supplies to the facilities to catch infections earlier and curb the spread, including “aggressive testing of staff.”
Her agency later told the Tribune it will prioritize testing residents and staff in homes without any known cases to more quickly isolate those found with the virus. For homes already with known cases, the agency will test staff to see who can continue to care for residents, while treating symptomatic residents as if they have the virus, even if not tested yet.
The nursing home data will be released once a week, according to the state. Because of how reports filter from local to state health officials, what’s released may not be the most up to date. And there can be wide variations. For example, the state reports one case and two deaths at Cicero’s City View Multi-Care Center. But the town of Cicero website reports 12 residents and 26 staffers testing positive, with six residents dying.
That worries Rosemary Payne, whose mother was a resident at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook for more than three years. The state data show 54 cases at the facility and 10 deaths.
As cases of COVID-19 mounted there, the facility said her 94-year-old mother tested negative. A few days later, Payne said she received a call saying her mother was dying. Payne, who said she is a registered nurse, came to the facility and listened to her mother with a stethoscope.
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“She had everything that COVID-19 patients were having,” Payne said. Her mother died March 28. “I think, if my mom’s going to die from this, at least count her as a statistic. Give her that much.”
Payne said she is seriously concerned that the data of COVID-19 cases is skewed and cases have been undercounted. “Everybody who went out of there in a body bag went out with COVID-19,” Payne said.
Payne said she isn’t naive about how quickly viruses can spread in care facilities. But she’s concerned the facility was trying to sweep possible cases under the rug, and the level of infection control was lacking.
“I think that there’s a lower bar for nursing homes in the state,” Payne said.
The Sunday data release was a step in the right direction, she said. “No nursing home wants that black eye, that bad publicity,” Payne said. But “if it’s positive, it’s positive.”