Chicago area nursing homes struggle to keep COVID-19 out of facilities

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — The nursing home industry is issuing a warning as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the Midwest.

“I’m worried,” president & CEO of LeadingAge, Katie Smith Sloan, said. “With the virus raging, it’s not enough. It’s simply not enough. So we’re calling on Congress to pass another stimulus bill to include more money.”

Chicago-area nursing homes are struggling to keep the virus out of their facilities. There’s also concern that the establishments will run out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like masks and face shields. 

Two of the largest associations representing nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are deeply concerned about what they’re seeing in the Midwest. COVID-19 infections in nursing homes are reaching a record number of new cases.

“Our worst fears have come true as Covid has run rampant across the country, nursing homes have become powerless from keeping it from spreading in our building,” said Mark Parkinson, President American Health Care Association.

Industry leaders are sounding the alarm with Thanksgiving fast approaching, and the threat of possibly more COVID-19 infections. 

The $175 billion in federal aid provided for nursing homes by the CARES Act back in April has all but depleted. 

Midwest nursing homes have been hit hard according to the latest numbers. Comparing national to local infections in early November, 47% of new nursing home Covid infections are happening in the Midwest — which has seen a staggering 200% spike in facility infections since September.

Death rates have also been on the rise. The pandemic has threatened not just elderly residents, but the health of courageous nursing home workers and management.    

“Our health care heroes are doing everything they can. They’re working seven days a week, sometimes double shifts, all hours of the night to keep it out,” Parkinson said.

Nursing home workers in Chicago are threatening to strike over work conditions. Frontline workers at nearly a dozen nursing homes are expected to hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon about the shortage of PPE and other concerns.

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