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CoVID19 and Nursing Homes In Illinois: My Comments To ABC Channel 7 Journalist John Garcia

I was pleased to have been asked by ABC Channel 7 journalist John Garcia to provide professional comment on the Corona Virus outbreak in Illinois nursing homes. The link to the news segment appears below.

As I explained to this interested ABC reporter and Chicago area viewers, the current CoVID19 “Shutdown” is a heartbreaking situation because the CDC guidelines do not allow nursing home residents to have any visitors. The only individuals allowed in the buildings are those deemed as “essential employees,” i.e., personnel who are involved with end of life care or legal decisions.

Sometimes, residents who are sent out to the hospital to be treated for the virus aren’t necessarily readmitted to the nursing homes without some resistance or delay. It has been reported that residents are forced to stay in the hospital until they are returned to the nursing home, which causes a crunch in available hospital beds. Many of the nursing homes have placed residents who have CoVID19 in a unit of the nursing home where they are sequestered from the other residents.

Here are practices currently being put into practice by Lexington Healthcare of Lombard for example:

• Increased respiratory surveillance with full set of vital signs taken every 8 hours on affected units.
• Control measures for any patient with signs/symptoms of a respiratory viral infection include: Full vital signs every 4 hours, private room, maintaining Standard, Contact, and Droplet Precautions (including eye protection).
• Every effort is made to ensure that staff members caring for positive or symptomatic patients do NOT care at this time for negative or asymptomatic patients.
• Any resident with new symptoms of fever and lower respiratory illness (cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) is placed immediately in both Contact and Droplet transmission-based precaution protocol.
• Determination to send residents to the hospital is based on the same criteria used for other severe illnesses.
• All providers and staff members screened daily for symptoms such as fever before entering the facility.
• Strict visitor and non-essential provider restrictions continue.
• Group activities suspended; alternatives provided (e.g., in-room dining and one-to-one activities).
• Ongoing deep cleaning of the facility, including all common areas
• All staff members wear a mask upon entry into the building and throughout their shifts.

At this time of such great precaution, not all nursing homes are treating new admissions the same way. Some are allowing new admissions and taking the residents’ temperatures while watching for CoVID-like symptoms. Most of the time, new admissions are placed in a private room and remain in quarantine for 7-14 days. Other nursing homes are simply not accepting transfers from other facilities at all.

As I explained during my interview with ABC TV-7, a loved one is not guaranteed safe in any of the nursing homes at this time because of the close physical proximity of the residents. In addition, testing a resident upon admission isn’t foolproof because the resident may not exhibit any signs of the disease.

In the meantime, the Activities Directors are doing a stellar job engaging the residents in activities where they can be appropriately distanced from each other. They Activities Directors are also easing the seniors’ pain of not being able to see their families by arranging Zoom, Skype and Facetime phone calls.

Stayed tuned with ADSLA as we meet the challenges of the present while preparing for better days ahead!