HUMBOLDT PARK — Just two days after Block Club highlighted the high coronavirus death toll and poor conditions at Center Home for Hispanic Elderly, state officials are stepping in to test all residents and employees of the Humboldt Park nursing home.
Gary Mack, spokesman for Center Home at 1401 N. California Ave., said nursing home administrators welcome the help from Illinois Department of Public Health, which is coming Thursday.
“It’s very cooperative and everyone is on the same page,” Mack said. “We’re … glad that they’re going to be testing everyone.”
According to workers and family members of the facility’s residents, Center Home has been in crisis for weeks. One worker who spoke to Block Club under the condition of anonymity said the widespread testing, while welcome, won’t undo weeks of poor management.
“Where were they a month ago? Almost everyone has already been infected,” the worker said. “I feel like people are being misled into believing they have this handled. I see what’s going on, but the outside world has no idea.”
The Humboldt Park nursing home recorded the most deaths from coronavirus infection of any nursing home in the city as of May 15. Infected residents are dying at an alarmingly high rate, according to state data.
Center Home had 62 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths as of May 15, data shows. One nurse at the facility has died from COVID-19 and another 28 nurses and workers have been infected, according to Mack, the Center Home spokesman.
According to workers, the nursing home is severely understaffed and lacks protective gear. Workers also said it’s become increasingly difficult to isolate infected residents because healthy patients routinely wander into infected residents’ rooms.
All of these issues combined pose tremendous challenges for nurses and other workers trying to keep residents safe and healthy.
Mack has disputed these accounts, saying administrators are following public health guidelines to keep residents and employees safe and protective gear isn’t in short supply. Mack has also said staffing levels are adequate and infected residents are “completely separated” in a separate wing.
Family members of residents also have complained of poor communication with nursing home staff and management.
Marlene Diaz said her mother was a resident of Center Home until she got sick with COVID-19 and was taken to a local hospital.
Diaz said it took weeks to find out her mother was ill because Center Home nurses kept saying, “She’s fine, she’s fine.”
“You’re putting her life in jeopardy,” Diaz said. “You should’ve at least given us a heads up that yes, we do have COVID patients here. And yes, she’s at risk to get it.”
Asked about the state doing widespread testing at Center Home, a spokesperson for the state’s public health department said there’s a larger push to ramp up testing at nursing homes across the state.
The spokesperson said the state is testing in nursing homes experiencing outbreaks and those located in communities where the virus is spreading widely.
The state has contracted with Quest Diagnostics to administer 3,000 tests a day at nursing homes across the state, the spokesperson said. That’s in addition to the testing done at the state laboratory.
“The state is working to bring testing to all residents and staff at homes to support effective infection control efforts,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, addressed the effort at Tuesday’s press conference.
“Our goal is to test everyone in every nursing home,” Ezike said. “The only reason we don’t do that now is because of the limit of our supplies and our capacity.”
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