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Levin & Perconti Represents Families Impacted by COVID-19 Outbreak at Illinois Veterans’ Home

The recent COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run veterans’ home in LaSalle, several investigations, and the subsequent firing of the home’s administrator, has triggered legal action directed at Illinois officials by the families of at least five dead residents. Levin & Perconti will represent the families, several of whom have described their personal tragedies with tremendous anger and frustration and overwhelming sadness, grief, and sorrow.

In an interview with Chicago’s ABC7 I-Team on December 22, Mike Bonamarte expressed tremendous and urgent concern of the situation, saying that “something happened” to trigger the November COVID-19 outbreak at the facility and that the virus was able to spread “inexcusably” inside beginning in late October, infecting more than 200 residents and staff members. Inadequate safety procedures, staff and leadership negligence, lack of personal protection equipment, and ineffective use of infection control resources likely contributed to the outbreak. Up until then, only one resident and five staff members at the home tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

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State Data Shows Illinois Nursing Home Residents Are Dying at Most Alarming Rate Yet

In the most recent data released by Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) officials, the state’s nursing-home residents are contracting COVID-19 and dying from it at their highest reported rates yet. Over the past week (December 11-18), public health regulators have recorded 605 deaths among residents of long-term care facilities, assisted-living centers, state-funded veterans’ homes, and other nursing home care sites. The previous highest mortality (and record-setting) death rate was for the first week in December when IDPH logged 480 fatalities among residents within the same groups of facilities.

The new data brings the COVID-19 death toll for Illinois nursing-home residents since the pandemic began in March to a staggering 7,559 or just over 50% of total Illinois fatalities due to the coronavirus, according to a Levin & Perconti nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer analysis of IDPH data.

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Chicago-Area Nursing Home Workers Ask For New Contract and Agree To ‘Tentatively’ End Strike

Much like hospital staff, Illinois nursing home employees have been working under complicated circumstances as the coronavirus continues to spread. So, it comes with no surprise that after requests for a safer workplace had stalled since June, an estimated 700 care workers from Infinity Healthcare Management walked off the job in late November, prompting a 12-day strike. The employees, who have been facing extreme workplace challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the greater Chicago-area, say they deserve significant wage increases equal to other nursing homes. The workers asked for a $2 an hour bump in pay and COVID hazard pay for all employees working at a facility with positive residents without attendance requirements, and also a guarantee for tools and resources such as personal protection equipment (PPE).

The nursing home workers and SEIU Healthcare Illinois union leaders announced on Friday, December 4th, that they had reached a possible agreement with Infinity leaders. The new ‘tentative’ agreement, according to SEIU, calls for a new three-year contract which includes:

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COVID-19 Surge Prompts Holiday Nursing Home Visit Plea From Health Officials

As the coronavirus pandemic has now met the busy holiday season, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued an unprecedented alert with recommendations for residents, their families and representatives, and nursing home staff to follow starting now and through the New Year’s holiday. The alert urges all groups to celebrate virtually and avoid in-person visits due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. Along with the CMS request and safe visiting reminders from The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, Levin & Perconti’s nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers in Chicago want to help families choose how best to include their loved ones in their 2020 holiday plans. And while we agree with CMS that family engagement and a resident’s right to leave the nursing home are choices up to each individual, everyone needs to work together to take extra precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID- 19, which can pose an elevated danger to Illinois’ nursing home residents.

Throughout the Holidays

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Chicago’s Long-Term Care Residents and Healthcare Workers in Line To Receive First Round of COVID-19 Vaccines

An emergency meeting led by the immunization advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, confirmed that long-term care residents and healthcare workers would be the first to access the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine. Once authorized by the federal government, an estimated 3 million residents and 21 million healthcare workers at long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing, assisted living, and other residential care facilities, will be eligible. The CDC is expected to provide further guidelines on how to distribute amongst the groups.

McKnight’s Long-Term Care News is reporting the groups will be treated as so:

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Associated Press: “Residents are suffering and dying from neglect.”

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin and Perconti support a statement provided by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care in response to a November 19, 2020, Associated Press report, Not just COVID: Nursing home neglect deaths surge in shadows. The article only confirmed what advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, care workers, and families have known for months: residents are suffering and dying from neglect.

According to the AP:

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Please Continue to Advocate for Nursing Home Residents

During these difficult times, it remains vital for patients and their families to understand that nursing home residents still have the right to proper care. And providers should always be held accountable when that care goes badly wrong.

The “Safe to Work Act” was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. The Act is designed to provide an escape route for nursing homes if negligent care and harmful abuse harms or kills nursing home residents. This immunity would extend for five years and apply to all harm to nursing home residents.

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McLean County Nursing Homes Face New Wave of COVID Infections

Community spread of the coronavirus is the biggest threat to long-term care facilities. And now, news of a third wave of COVID-19 infections is again concerning communities with elder care facilities such as nursing homes, group homes, and skilled nursing communities. In McLean County, 9 of those facilities are experiencing cases on an upward trend, including three outbreaks, with the largest at a large assisted living facility in Bloomington. At the Bickford House, located at 14 Heartland Drive, there are 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two reported deaths.

Elder care facilities in McLean County that have had cases within the last 28 days include:

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Massachusetts Nursing Home Leaders Are First to Face Criminal Charges Related to Coronavirus Deaths

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts is home to 76 patients who died due to coronavirus outbreak that began in March and led to 160 residents and staff members found to be positive for COVID-19. According to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, two leaders of the veterans’ home have now been criminally charged for those related deaths. Healey said the nursing home officials are believed to be the first in the country to face criminal charges in connection with the pandemic.

According to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, “A grand jury indicted former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh, 50, and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton, 71, based on their decision to merge two dementia care units, combining COVID-19 positive residents with others who were asymptomatic.”

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COVID-19 Care Failures Should Prepare Illinois Nursing Homes for Influenza Outbreaks

In the last flu season, an estimated 35.5 million people were sick with the illness, 16.5 million people required a health care provider for their treatment, and there were 490,600 influenza hospitalizations and 34,200 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Due to the coronavirus pandemic and an estimated 213,000 related deaths and counting, medical communities agree that this year’s influenza burden may magnify one of the deadliest illnesses in the United States, with the elderly residing in nursing homes affected most severely.

Shockingly, U.S. nursing homes have the lowest flu shot rates among health settings, leaving many residents of nursing homes already at a significant risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, now left to battle influenza. And as we have witnessed with the rapid spread of COVID-19, many nursing homes and long-term care facilities are not necessarily prepared to prevent an infectious disease outbreak among residents and staff. The pandemic has brought renewed attention to nursing home quality issues related to infectious diseases, such as:

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