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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

After Devastating Coronavirus Outbreak, Humboldt Park Nursing Home Slowly Recovering: ‘Testing Helps A Lot’

Thirty residents and one staff member have died from COVID-19 infections at Center Home for Hispanic Elderly. But testing is increasing and spread of the disease is slowing, administrators say.

(from left) State Sen. Omar Aquino, Center Home administrator Juvenal Gonzalez and a Taiwanese official at Tuesday's press conference. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago donated 5,000 masks to the facility.
Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago
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HUMBOLDT PARK — Conditions are improving at the Humboldt Park nursing home that once had the highest number of deaths from coronavirus of any such facility in the city — though the death toll remains high.

Thirty seniors and one staff member at Center Home for Hispanic Elderly at 1401 N. California Ave. have died from COVID-19, administrator Juvenal Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez said as of Friday, the last time they tested residents and staff, no one at Center Home was infected with COVID-19.

The improvement can be attributed, in large part, to widespread testing.

Two days after a Block Club report highlighted the high death toll and poor conditions at Center Home, the Illinois Department of Public Health stepped in to test all residents and staff members. Now the agency conducts testing at the facility each week.

“Testing helps a lot,” Gonzalez said.

The administrator added that staff members are working hard to keep seniors safe.

“It’s the continuous education of staff members, alerting family members of what we’re dong on a weekly basis. … documenting any changes in conditions, notifying physicians of changes in conditions,” he said.

Gonzalez provided the update at a press conference Tuesday morning announcing a donation of 5,000 masks from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago.

State Sen. Omar Aquino, whose district includes Center Home, helped arrange the donation.

Aquino said he connected the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office with Center Home because the Humboldt Park nursing home has “seen some of the largest numbers” of COVID-19 in the area.

Gonzalez said he’s “extremely grateful” to receive the donation. He said even though the outbreak at Center Home is currently under control, that could change at any time and masks are still needed.

“We are making progress in the fight against COVID-19, but we will still need PPE every day for every person for the foreseeable future,” Gonzalez said in a written statement.

In May, nurses and other Center Home workers told Block Club they lacked access to protective gear and administrators weren’t providing enough support. They said the facility also struggled with residents routinely wandering into isolation rooms occupied by infected residents.

Nurses and other workers were struggling to cope as deaths soared.

“It’s like going to a funeral every day. … You know how you get out of the car, but you greet all of these people who are grieving? That’s how nursing is,” one worker said. “Everybody is grieving. Everybody is afraid they’re going to take it to their children, take it to their mothers.”

“It’s like walking into a world that you don’t even know, that you couldn’t even imagine in your mind exists.”

Asked if a shortage of masks and other supplies prompted the donation, Gonzalez said no. He said Center Home has “never” suffered from a shortage of supplies.

“We always have adequate amounts of PPE. We always had it from the beginning, before the pandemic,” Gonzalez said.

Public health records show Center Home reporting 88 cases of coronavirus of COVID-19 as of July 3, but that appears to be an aggregate number. Center Home had 62 confirmed cases as of May 15.

In addition to 30 residents who have died from the virus, another 35 have recovered “and continue to progress in their health,” according to Center Home administrators. About 100 residents live in the nursing home.

The death toll at Center Home is high compared to other nursing homes in the state, data shows, but several other nursing homes across the state have seen more deaths than the Humboldt Park nursing home as of July 3.

At Woodbridge Nursing Pavilion in Logan Square, which has struggled with its own outbreak, 37 people have died.

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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