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CHICAGO — Health officials said friends and relatives should avoid visiting patients in assisted living centers as COVID-19 continues to spread.

“We are encouraging all people, including family members and loved ones, to not visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” said Mark Parkinson, President of the American Health Care Association.

“The grim reality is that, for the elderly, COVID-19 is almost a perfect killing machine,” Parkinson added.

Parkinson suggested alternative ways of communicating with loved ones such as phone calls, texts, FaceTime or Snapchat.

There about 1,200 long-term care facilities in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nursing homes in Kentucky, Minnesota, and Washington state have already temporarily banned visitors.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday ordered nursing home to limit visitors after the coronavirus outbreak spread to 11 facilities in the state.