HUMBOLDT PARK — A coronavirus outbreak at a Humboldt Park senior center has infected 38 residents and led to the deaths of six others.
Gary Mack, spokesman for the Center Home for Hispanic Elderly, 1401 N. California Ave., said as of Monday morning 31 of the infected residents remain hospitalized, while seven others have returned to the nursing home after they were deemed medically stable.
“We are deeply saddened by the deaths of six of our residents and offer our sincerest condolences to their family,” the center said in a written statement.
In the statement, the senior center said it “has worked and continues to work diligently to protect” its residents and staff during the outbreak and has “implemented all of the best practices” outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The center is not allowing any non-essential people in the building and is cleaned regularly in accordance with state and federal guidelines. Everyone who enters the center, including employees, is being monitored for symptoms and is being told to stay home if they’re sick, according to the statement. The center has also stopped allowing communal eating and activities among residents.
Center employees have been provided gloves and masks, officials said. The center said it “maintains an appropriate supply” of protective equipment.
“We are working around the clock to stay up-to-date with the constantly evolving infectious disease control protocols from the CDC and IDPH,” the statement reads.
Also in the statement, the center noted that nursing homes do not conduct COVID-19 testing in-house. Residents are monitored 24/7 for symptoms and are sent to the hospital if symptoms worsen.
Rafael De Jesus’ 81-year-old mother, Maria Perez, is one of the seniors who contracted the virus while living at the Center Home for Hispanic Elderly.
De Jesus said he’s frustrated because the senior center failed to properly communicate his mother’s condition. He said he called one morning and an administrator told him his mother didn’t have a temperature and her vital signs were fine and then later an administrator called back and told him she had been seriously ill for days and he needed to come see her.
“There was no transparency, no communication,” De Jesus said.
De Jesus said they have since moved their mother to a new senior center out of frustration.
“It’s hard enough being locked down in your house. … I see [my mother] suffering and it hurts. And it hurts that I can’t even hold her,” he said.
Mack, the center’s spokesman, said in a statement, “Center Home works to be transparent in all areas with residents and their families. The Center also strives to communicate accurately, frequently and directly with residents and families.”
Nursing homes and other long-term senior living centers across Chicago are struggling with coronavirus outbreaks.
The state is taking steps to mitigate the coronavirus’ impact on senior living centers, including increasing testing at such facilities, Gov. JB Pritzker said last week.
“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,” Pritzker said.
The Center Home for Hispanic Elderly ranks high on the list of Cook County long-term care facilities with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But that data is inconsistent and incomplete. Last week, Block Club reported that 111 residents of Symphony South Shore have tested positive for the virus, but the state website only lists 35 cases.
The Humboldt Park senior center’s numbers are slightly off, too. According to the state website, the Center Home for Hispanic Elderly has 34 cases and has seen five deaths.
Neighbors interested in helping the senior center can do so by sending thank you cards or treats to nurses and staffers, Mack said. Treats must be made in a commercial establishment in accordance with public health guidelines.
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