Park Forest coronavirus: IL National Guard called to help with COVID-19 outbreak at developmental center

PARK FOREST, Ill. (WLS) -- The Illinois National Guard is helping conduct health screenings after a coronavirus outbreak at a Park Forest developmental center sickened more than 100 people.

State officials said the assignment is just temporary. The cases involved both residents and staff at Elisabeth Ludeman Developmental Center, and three people - two residents and one staff member - have died from COVID-19.

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Mayor Jonathan Vanderbilt is thankful the National Guard is coming.

"They are not going to be in uniform," he said. "It is meant to just help with transportation and logistics for the tests."

The Illinois Department of Human Services requested the help from the Illinois National Guard Elisabeth Ludeman Developmental Center is a state-operated facility that's home to about 350 people with developmental disabilities. Twenty-two guard members will be conducting temperature checks of employees, freeing up staff at the center to care for patients.

"There are nurses on site that are already trained by the Illinois Department of Human Services to administer COVID-19 tests that are required," Vanderbilt said.

State officials said they have stepped up their testing capacity at the facility.

Mayor Vanderbilt said he's concerned that the virus could spread beyond the developmental center that employs nearly 900 people. Some of those workers live in Park Forest.

"I've got neighbors on my street in Park Forest," Vanderbilt said. "I have church members that I know who work here. So I am directly impacted. The community is directly impacted."

The guard members will begin work at the center this weekend. State officials said they will stay on duty until the Ludeman facility has more staff.

Approximately 44 Illinois National Guard Airmen will provide health screenings at two Illinois Department of Human Services developmental centers, one in Kankakee and one in Park Forest.

The National Guard released a statement that read:

"About 22 Airmen, including two medical technicians, from the 126th Air Refueling Wing, based at Scott Air Force Base, have been activated as temperature checkpoint teams to augment Illinois Department of Human Services staff at the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee. Each checkpoint will include one person to take temperatures and one person to document temperatures and responses to the Illinois Department of Public Health screening questions per checkpoint. This will alleviate staff members to enable them to care for patients. Staff members will have temperatures taken every four hours daily. The facility will provide the 126th ARW team with personal protection equipment, touchless thermometers and required training. The Airmen will report to their wing for in processing and screening Sunday and to the developmental center on Monday. The mission is temporary, and is expected to last approximately a week.

Approximately 22 Airmen, including two medical technicians, from the 183rd Wing, based in Springfield, have been activated as temperature checkpoint teams to augment Illinois Department of Human Services staff at the Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest. Each checkpoint will include one person to take temperatures and one person to document temperatures and responses to the Illinois Department of Public Health screening questions per checkpoint. This will alleviate staff members to enable them to care for patients. Staff members will have temperatures taken every four hours daily. The facility will provide the 183rd Wing team with personal protection equipment, touchless thermometers and required training. The Airmen will report to their wing for in processing and screening Sunday and to the Developmental Center on Monday. The mission is temporary, and is expected to last approximately a week."
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