Illinois nursing homes to remain on COVID-19 lockdown; death rate climbs

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In response to questions from the ABC7 I-Team on Monday, Gov. JB Pritzker said he is not yet opening up nursing homes in the state to family visits.

He said there is no easy answer to stopping the virus spread in nursing homes and offered no date when relatives might resume visiting their loved ones.

That distressing news for more than 100,000 residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes in the state comes as the I-Team has analyzed the latest COVID-19 data. Even as statewide infection totals fall, and the so-called curve is flattening, the picture for nursing facilities is not encouraging. In the most recent one-week period, new figures reveal that more than three-quarters of all Illinois COVID deaths occurred in Illinois nursing homes and long term care facilities.

"Our nursing homes continue to be a challenge," said Gov. Pritzker at a Monday afternoon news conference. "There isn't an easy answer. You know, people think that well gee if you know there's a problem-why can't you just solve it?"

New data maps out an increasing challenge:

Illinois nursing home and long-term care facilities now report more than 3,100 coronavirus deaths, 54 percent of the state total and growing by the day.

And elderly infirm facilities in the eight counties that make up metro Chicago are approaching half of all COVID-19 deaths in the entire state.

With that new data in hand, the I-Team asked Gov. Pritzker if his original statewide stay-at-home order would have been more focused had he known nursing facilities were going have more than half of the state's deaths.

"I think it's a false premise for the question, to be honest," the governor responded. "The fact is that the stay at home order was designed also to save, and to keep healthy, the rest of the population because it's not like it's limited to nursing homes."

Pritzker cited "tight congregate settings" including prisons and long-term care facilities and described them as "the most difficult of the circumstance, but I think you saw that that we brought down and kept down that curve."

Regardless of the coronavirus curve coming down, on Monday came the very disappointing news from Gov. Pritzker for the families of those living in nursing homes. He said they are not yet opening up nursing homes for visitors and he did not provide a date for removing the hard lockdown. In view of state data, the governor said at nursing homes "the less direct interaction, the better."
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