Residents of nursing homes in Illinois accounted for 59 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in that state over the past three weeks.
On Friday, April 24, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported that 625 of the 1,795 COVID-19 deaths in the state reported during the five and a half weeks between the first recorded COVID-19 death on March 17 and April 24, or 35 percent, were nursing home residents.
Three weeks later, on Friday, May 15, the IDPH reported an additional 2,263 COVID-19 deaths in the state during the three week period between April 24 and May 15, 1,350 of whom, or 59.6 percent, were nursing home residents. (Note: The IDPH reports nursing home COVID-19 deaths once a week on Fridays.)
That raised the number of nursing home deaths as a percentage of total COVID-19 deaths during the entire pandemic to just shy of 49 percent, or 1,975 out of 4,058, as The Daily Herald reported:
A devastating coronavirus crisis in Illinois nursing homes and other long-term care facilities has claimed nearly 2,000 lives, according to new state data released Friday.
At least 1,975 deaths are now linked to facilities caring for the state’s most vulnerable, an increase of 422 from the 1,553 fatalities reported a week ago
Nursing home deaths now represent almost 49% of the 4,058 fatalities statewide, according to the latest round of Illinois Department of Public Health data.
While several governors, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, have been criticized for requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients early in the pandemic, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also a Democrat, has been criticized for his approach to the problem of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents in the state, as Breitbart News reported:
Some governors in other states specifically prohibited patients that tested positive for COVID-19 from being admitted to nursing homes.
Early in the pandemic, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, did not adopt a policy specifically prohibiting nursing homes from admitting patients who tested positive for COVID-19. That failure to establish a policy left the decision of admitting or turning away a COVID-19 patient up to the management of the local nursing home facility.
Just as Gov. Cuomo reversed course on his nursing home admission policy earlier this month, Gov. Pritzker has recently attempted to address the nursing home COVID-19 problem in his state by increasing testing at those facilities and providing more personal protection equipment (PPE) as WTTW reported last week:
While long-term care facilities are primarily responsible for procuring their own personal protective equipment, the state provides a back-up for them. “Having state government fulfill each individual request would not be efficient or in any way manageable,” Pritzker said.
“That said, these are some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans, and in this crisis the state is doing everything in its power to protect them,” he added. “To ensure all facilities have their own stockpile, IEMA (the Illinois Emergency Management Agency) and IDPH have coordinated a somewhat unprecedented effort to directly deliver to more than 1,200 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state.”
Direct shipments of personal protective equipment began April 30 and have reached 85% of those 1,200 facilities, according to Pritzker, who said the final deliveries are expected in the coming days. Each shipment contains N95 and KN95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, face shields and shoe covers for up to 200 residents, according to the governor. Facilities that have more than 200 residents will get two shipments.
With nursing home residents accounting for just shy of 49 percent of COVID-19 tests in the state, Illinois is now above the national average of 41 percent among the 36 states currently reporting that data, as compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation as of May 12.