COVID-19 has an alarming infection rate across the U.S., now totaling more than 672,000 confirmed cases, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Many of the individuals at most risk of a COVID-19 infection in Illinois reside at one of the state’s 1,200 long-term care facilities, responsible for the care of more than 100,000 individuals. Several advocates for quality long-term care are now raising questions about how accurate the reporting of COVID-19 cases among Illinois residents truly is and how that may be causing a delay in preventing the spread of the disease.
Levin & Perconti partner and attorney Steven Levin spoke to Chicago ABC7 about the role of inaccuracies in reporting COVID-19 cases in the state, saying, “I believe that reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. I believe we are going to find a scary situation once independent observers can go into the nursing homes to see what’s happened.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) says as many as 305 long-term health care facilities have felt the impact of the highly contagious virus, with many nursing homes experiencing wide-spread community transmission. While there is no publicly available list of Illinois facilities battling coronavirus infections, on Wednesday, April 15, the state reported 1,587 cases associated with long-term facilities and 296 related deaths, including residents and staff.
Subsequently, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that healthcare workers are the most likely source of the introduction of infectious diseases into a long-term care facility. Understaffing and a lack of personal protection equipment also creates a quality of care burden experienced by vulnerable residents. These problems leave families wondering how they can protect their loved ones who remain dependent on nursing home care while strict no visitor regulations have been set in place.
Nursing Homes Must Provide COVID-19 Infection Data
Nursing homes with residents suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19 infections in Illinois should contact local and state health departments immediately. Residents with severe respiratory infection resulting in hospitalization or death, or ≥ three residents or health care workers with new-onset respiratory symptoms within 72 hours of each other should also be reported per the CDC’s guidance updated on April 13.
Just as problematic, many sick nursing home residents will be transferred to a hospital and then treated there. If the resident’s COVID-19 related death occurs while a patient at a hospital, the death may be counted as a hospital reported death. This undercounting and inefficient reporting of novel coronavirus cases coming from a nursing home to a hospital setting can further delay the seriousness of data supporting an issue at a facility.
If you have concerns about a facility’s infection control practices, talk to the Director of Nursing, and share your feedback with an Illinois local long-term ombudsman. IDPH has also created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931 to report issues related to COVID-19 infections at long-term care facilities. More information can be found by visiting the IDPH website.
Levin & Perconti: Attorneys at Law
As experienced advocates for long-term care residents and their families, our firm is ready to help ensure that your loved ones stay safe and healthy during this unprecedented time. Please use our resources to help you stay connected, and know that if you find yourself concerned about a resident’s well-being, please call us at 312-332-2872 or toll-free at 877-374-1417.