Concern for Coronavirus Spread is Now a Sobering Reality for Illinois Nursing Homes

On Tuesday, March 15, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the first death from the new coronavirus in Illinois. The woman had close contact with another person infected with the virus. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said she did have an underlying health condition but was not a resident of a nursing home facility. Although a total of 160 cases of COVID-19 have now been tracked in the state, including 22 cases at Willowbrook nursing home in DuPage County impacting 18 residents and four employees. Chicago’s WGN9 reported the first resident’s confirmed test over the weekend by state health officials. The resident is now in critical condition. The virus has since moved quickly to others at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, located in the 7000 block of South Madison Street in Willowbrook.

Fast-Changing Information About Coronavirus in Illinois (March 17, 2020)

As Levin & Perconti employees work to stay informed about how COVID-19 is taking over Illinois families and the communities we serve, including long-term care facilities, these are just some of the latest updates helpful for our clients and friends in the Chicago-area and throughout Illinois.

  • According to Johns Hopkins data, the mortality rate for coronavirus is the U.S. is about 4%.
  • Coronavirus is now in all 50 states, and the death toll passed 100, said a new CNN tally of data from state health officials.
  • IDPH officials say it is highly unlikely to have both influenza and COVID-19 simultaneously.
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) told nursing home facilities that all visitors and non-essential health care personnel should be restricted, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation.
  • As of Tuesday, March 17, authorities revealed Illinois had 160 confirmed cases.
  • Chicago Department of Public Health said the recent increase in the number of reported cases is the result of some additional testing kits now available.
  • Those infected with COVID-19 may vary in severity from lack of symptoms to mild or severe symptoms or fatality.
  • According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Peoria, Champaign, Clinton, Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Sangamon, St. Clair, Whiteside, Winnebago, and Woodford counties, and several more in Chicago already this week.
  • Illinois has approximately 1,200 long-term care facilities serving more than 100,000 residents, from the young to the elderly, according to IDPH.
  • Although COVID-19 vaccine trials are being tested at several global institutions, there is still no cure, no drug, or treatment, unlike what we know and have today for influenza.

How Does COVID-19 Spread So Easily?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that visitors and healthcare personnel are the most likely sources of introduction of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus strain, into a long-term care facility. The disease is highly contagious and passed quickly in two common ways.

  1. When infected droplets are released from someone’s cough or sneeze, in an individual anywhere from a 3- to 6-foot radius can easily become infected by the virus.
  2. Contact with the virus droplets as they fall and rest on surfaces is another easy way for a nursing home population to become infected. COVID-19 can live on areas like a door handle, an arm of a wheelchair, a community room table, or TV remote for at least several hours.

Nursing homes with residents suspected of having COVID-19 infection should contact their local health department. All nursing homes should be fully staffed.

CMS Releases Additional Guidance for Long-Term Care Networks (March 13, 2020)

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma released an updated memorandum stating that U.S. nursing homes are now expected to operate under no visitor restrictions unless the individual is approved to be allowed and screened for entrance into a facility due to compassionate situations (e.g., end-of-life care). The visitors “will be required to perform hand hygiene and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as facemasks.” Visitors and staff with fevers, other symptoms of COVID-19, or unable to demonstrate proper use of infection control techniques should be restricted from entry.

Additional guidance for long-term care facilities also included these preventive infectious disease measures.

  1. Cancel communal dining and all group activities, such as internal and external group activities.
  2. Implement active screening of residents and staff for fever and respiratory symptoms.
  3. Remind residents to practice social distancing and perform frequent hand hygiene.
  4. Screen all staff at the beginning of their shift for fever and respiratory symptoms. Actively take their temperature and document absence of shortness of breath, new or change in cough, and sore throat. If they are ill, have them put on a facemask and self-isolate at home.
  5. Facilities should identify staff that work at multiple facilities (e.g., agency staff, regional or corporate staff, etc.) and actively screen and restrict them appropriately to ensure they do not place individuals in the facility at risk for COVID-19.
  6. Facilities should review and revise how they interact vendors and receiving supplies, agency staff, EMS personnel and equipment, transportation providers (e.g., when taking residents to offsite appointments, etc.), and other non-health care providers (e.g., food delivery, etc.), and take necessary actions to prevent any potential transmission.
  7. Advise visitors, and any individuals who entered the facility (e.g., hospice staff), to monitor for signs and symptoms of respiratory infection for at least 14 days after exiting the facility. If symptoms occur, advise them to self-isolate at home, contact their healthcare provider, and immediately notify the facility of the date they were in the facility, the individuals they were in contact with, and the locations within the facility they visited. Facilities should immediately screen the individuals of reported contact, and take all necessary actions based on findings.

To be sure of all new updates, review the Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes (REVISED) memorandum in its entirety released by CMS on March 13.

Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Related to Coronavirus

If a loved one has sustained a serious infectious disease complication resulting from neglect or missed medical treatments provided by a nursing home or the intentional understaffing its workforce, we can help. Please reach out to Levin & Perconti, a Chicago-based law firm ready to provide you with a free nursing home negligence consultation at (312) 332-2872.

Also read: Levin & Perconti’s Letter to Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Clients Regarding Coronavirus