Coronavirus deaths: 23 have died of COVID-19 at Symphony of Joliet nursing home

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) -- Twenty-two residents and one staff member at the Symphony of Joliet nursing home have died from coronavirus and some family members say they didn't even know their loved ones were sick.

Coronavirus deaths in Illinois by county; COVID-19 victims of all ages

One of the residents who died was a former Cook County Clerk employee. Diane Brooks, 65, died due to complications from COVID-19 on April 6.
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Diane Brooks, 65, died from the coronavirus on April 6.

"This took down a family," her sister Brenda Brooks said. "This is destroying us."

Brooks' family said she had lived at the home for the last two years. A day before her death, Brooks' family said they got a call that she was being rushed to the ER. They didn't even know she was sick.

"I said, wait a minute, what are you talking about, I didn't know she was on oxygen," Brenda recalled.

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Twenty-two residents and one staff member at the Symphony of Joliet nursing home have died from coronavirus.

Gerald Francis is another resident of Symphony of Joliet who died after testing positive for coronavirus.

"I don't know how much he suffered," said Mary Ann Francis, his widow. "How much did he suffer? I don't even know. I don't even know how he died."

Francis died of COVID-19 on Tuesday. But his wife and daughter didn't even know he had it until now.

"The only way we found out that he tested for the virus was because we finally got ahold of the nurse that was taking care of him," Mary Ann Francis said.

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Local elderly are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, a Chicago internist says.

Her husband of 62 years was one of the healthy residents at the Symphony of Joliet nursing home - at least that's what his wife and daughter said they were told.

"We were told that all of the people that were being transferred from the Joliet facility to the Aurora facility were healthy," said his daughter, Sharon Remblake.

"'Mary Ann,' he says, 'they're killing me here.' He says, 'you gotta get me out of here,'" his widow recalled.

Locked out of nursing homes by a state order to keep the virus contained, relatives are struggling to get information.

RELATED: Families demand more transparency from nursing homes amid COVID-19 crisis
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Their loved ones contracted the coronavirus while the nursing homes were under a quarantine, families want more information about how it was spread.

"I think it's absolutely the intention of every nursing home to contact families when they have a loved one who is sick and to provide updates," Illinois Director of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "I'm going to speak for the nursing home and say it's probably just backlog."

And on the inside, the sick and elderly are dying alone.

A spokesperson for the Symphony of Joliet said they are standing by their providers, but also feel the pain and uncertainty the pandemic is bringing residents' families.

The spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes is a growing problem across the country.

As of now, there's no national database tracking the numbers, but the Associated Press says its tally is up to around 5,000 deaths.

A plan was finalized on Tuesday for nursing homes to report their COVID-19 infection data to the feds.
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