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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Vaccine Arrives At Deadliest Moment For McLean County's Long-Term Care Facilities

Exterior of Nursing Home
At the McLean County Nursing Home in Normal, there have been 11 deaths and 82 cases during the current active outbreak.

The first COVID vaccines are arriving at McLean County's long-term care facilities at the pandemic's deadliest moment.

December was the deadliest month of the pandemic in McLean County, with 51 deaths. Of those people, 31 were associated with long-term care, such as nursing homes.

There were 13 active outbreaks at long-term care facilities in McLean County as of Friday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. At least 43 deaths have been traced to those 13 outbreaks alone. (IDPH defines an "active" outbreak as one with cases in the past 28 days.)

The deadliest outbreaks, according to IDPH, have happened at:

  • Heritage Health of Normal, 11 deaths and 104 cases during current active outbreak.
  • McLean County Nursing Home, 11 deaths and 82 cases during current active outbreak.
  • Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, 11 deaths and 59 cases. That outbreak happened in May and has since ended.

The outbreak at the McLean County Nursing Home is notable because that's a government-owned facility. It had around 80 residents as of early December, mostly those on Medicaid.

The situation has deteriorated in the past month. In early December, there were only 18 cases and zero deaths. Employees there are being tested for COVID-19 each week.

Like other long-term care facilities, the McLean County Nursing Home is expected to soon receive its first doses of the COVID vaccine. That will happen through a federal program in partnership with CVS and Walgreens. That program began vaccine distribution Dec. 28, though it's unclear how many doses were administered in the first week.

"We are working closely with Walgreens for the vaccine but it is unknown at this time when we will actually get the vaccine," Terri Edens, McLean County Nursing Home administrator, said in a report to the McLean County Board's Health Committee ahead of its Jan. 4 meeting.

About half of COVID deaths statewide have been tied to long-term care facilities. In McLean County, it's been 66 of 101 deaths, or 65%.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.