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Coronavirus In Chicago: Nursing Homes Can’t Reopen To Visitors Anytime Soon

Nursing homes have been hit hard by COVID-19, with deaths at the facilities accounting for nearly half of all coronavirus deaths in Illinois.

Center Home for Hispanic Elderly in Humboldt Park.
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CHICAGO — Nursing homes and longterm care facilities have been among the places hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, which means they can’t reopen to visitors for some time, Gov. JB Pritzker said.

So far, the roughly 1,200 such facilities in Illinois have seen at least 2,402 deaths related to COVID-19, according to the state’s data. That accounts for about 47 percent of all the deaths from coronavirus in the state.

Chicago’s nursing homes have struggled, with outbreaks sickening and killing residents throughout the city, from South Shore to Humboldt Park to West Ridge.

In a bid to protect residents, the state restricted visitors in early March, before the stay at home order was even in place.

As the state reopens and progresses in its fight against coronavirus, some have hoped nursing homes would welcome visitors and they’d be able to visit loved ones soon.

But visitors still pose a risk to residents, Pritzker said during a Wednesday press conference, and that means nursing homes will likely be among the last things to reopen during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 doesn’t live in a facility; it comes in with somebody and then it spreads,” Pritzker said. “I must admit to you the CDC is telling every state this may be one of the last things happening with COVID is … visitors being able to come back in those facilities … .”

Outbreaks in nursing homes have been hard to control, Pritzker has previously said.

And the people who live in such facilities are elderly and might have underlying conditions, which puts them at the most risk for severe cases of COVID-19. People coming in and out increases the risk of an outbreak.

Officials have tried to increase testing of staff and residents, provide personal protective equipment and isolate sick people to prevent more cases, officials have said. Infectious disease prevention experts from the state have worked one-on-one with some facilities to get their outbreaks under control.

Currently, the state is testing staff at nursing homes where there have been outbreaks and testing staff and residents at homes where there have not been outbreaks, Pritzker said.

Pritzker would like to see everyone get tested, though, he said.

“I’d like to do it all at once. If we had the national leadership on this subject, if we had the supplies available, we could do this much more quickly, but we’re getting to it as fast as we can,” Pritzker said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends facilities maintain visitor restrictions. When those restrictions are eventually relaxed, facilities should require visits to be scheduled, should have special visitation hours, should limit the number of visitors per resident and should restrict where people can go inside a facility, according to the agency.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a press conference at 1 p.m. and Pritzker has his daily briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Coronavirus Cases

• There have been 114,306 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois as of Wednesday. Many of those patients have recovered since testing positive.

• At least 5,083 people have died in Illinois as a result of the virus. Illinois passed the 5,000 mark the same day the United States surpassed 100,000 total deaths.

• There have been 43,716 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and at least 2,020 people have died.

If You Need Help

• Sick? Broke? Want To Help? Here’s A Massive List Of Coronavirus Resources In Chicago

What’s Happening In Chicago

• Arrests: Despite the mayor’s claim that police have enforced social distancing equally across Chicago, data shows almost all arrests and citations for congregating have been issued on the city’s South and West sides.

Helping Seniors: My Block, My Hood, My City needs help handing out supplies to elderly people this weekend.

• Contact Tracing: Pritzker is ramping up the tracing program that intends to isolate every person known to be in recent contact with someone who has newly confirmed case.

The city is also looking for an organization to head up a 600-person contact tracing team.

• Reopening Businesses: The state has released its guidelines for how businesses can safely reopen during Phase 3. The city released rules of its own, too.

Here’s what the city wants bars, restaurants, salons and stores to do before they can reopen.

• Child Care: The state is now allowing child care centers to reopen during Phase 3, though with capacity limits. Day camps will be allowed to reopen, too, though they also face restrictions.

• Phase 3: Chicago is not yet ready to progress to the next stage in the state reopening plan, Lightfoot said.

But here’s what will reopen in the city when it moves into Phase 3, hopefully in early June, Lightfoot said.

• Mental Health: Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to embrace their feelings and find ways to care for themselves, saying she’s allowed herself to cry during the pandemic.

• “We’re Not Them”: Lightfoot said Chicago won’t rush to reopen like Florida and Georgia and will instead focus on saving lives.

• Churches: At least three Chicago churches were cited for holding in-person services during the stay at home order. The city has ordered them to stop hosting in-person services.

• Patio Season: Restaurants and bars can offer outdoor seating starting May 29 as officials try to save the industry. But Lightfoot said that won’t be the case in Chicago.

• Unemployment: A staggering 1 million people are out of work in Illinois, according to newly released data.

• Masks: Two local designers have switched from high fashion to protective masks as part of the city’s effort to provide 1 million reusable cloth masks to Chicagoans.

• Domestic Violence: Demand is spiking at domestic violence shelters, but they’re losing beds for social distancing.

• Undercounting Deaths: The number of COVID-19 deaths in Illinois is likely higher than what’s been reported, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

• Food Delivery: Services like Grubhub and DoorDash will soon have to tell customers just how much they’re charging restaurants for delivering food. The city is pushing for more transparency from the services as restaurants struggle during the pandemic.

 Masks: Everyone is now required to wear a face covering or mask when unable to social distance. And yes, stores can require you to wear a face covering if you want to shop.

Here’s what you need to know about the requirement.

• Testing: Officials are now saying anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get tested in Illinois. Before, they’d advised most people to simply stay at home and assume they had coronavirus.

Here’s where you can get tested in Chicago.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills and shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste and/or smell

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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