WATCH: Gov. JB Pritzker discusses COVID-19 concerns at nursing homes
"These private facilities are home to some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans, and we expect owners and managers responsible for their care to take every action at their disposal to keep them safe," Governor JB Pritzker said at his Monday press briefing.
An I-Team data analysis finds that statewide, 186 long-term facilities have reported COVID-19 cases, and 58% of those facilities with cases have reported deaths linked to the virus.
The most cases in Illinois have been reported at Symphony of Joliet, where state data shows 81 confirmed cases there and at least 21 residents have died from COVID-19.
"This is, I think, our nightmare," Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk said.
Joliet has a high concentration of nursing homes. From the beginning of the pandemic, officials say facilities were ill-prepared and first responders left exposed.
"I asked the question then of the fire department: If this gets in the nursing homes what can we do?" Mayor O'Dekirk said. "And no one really had an answer other than to separate people. Back in January, our firefighters weren't wearing the protective gear that they probably should have been."
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"Our hearts are with them. We understand the frustration and the concern and the uncertainty," Symphony Care Network's Lauryn Allison told Eyewitness News last week. "Whatever recommendations, best practice is coming through, we are implementing on the spot."
Symphony of Joliet officials told the I-Team they're naming an infectious disease expert to lead their system-wide COVID-19 response and believe their case numbers are higher because they've been testing more extensively and longer than many facilities statewide.
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Windsor Park Manor in Carol Stream reports the second most cases and deaths in Illinois. State data shows 81 cases and 11 deaths there linked to COVID-19.
A spokesman for the facility tells the I-Team that actually 15 residents there have died from COVID-19, but they believe they only have 70 cases total there. They say state data counts additional residents who have symptoms but have not tested positive. In a statement, they say they "continue to work closely with the local and state authorities" on infection control and the "health and safety" of "residents and employees remains" their "highest priority."
There are 10 deaths and 54 confirmed cases linked to Chateau of Willowbrook - the third most in the state. A spokesman for the facility told the I-Team some of the patients with COVID-19 linked deaths reported were in hospice and "had other illnesses and co-morbidities" that contributed "to their unfortunate deaths."
State health officials tell the I-Team they are ramping up testing at "targeted facilities with no known cases" and "testing of staff at facilities with known outbreaks."