COVID Penetrates Nursing Homes In McLean County | WGLT

COVID Penetrates Nursing Homes In McLean County

Oct 21, 2020

A third wave of COVID-19 infections in Illinois is pressuring long-term care facilities in the state, including McLean County.

Nine retirement communities, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and a group home in the county have had cases in the last 28 days. The biggest outbreak is at Bickford House in Bloomington with 36 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths. The others add a combined 71 cases for a total of 107 cases in that type of facility in the last month. That exceeds the number during three outbreaks at such facilities early in the pandemic.

McLean County Health Department Administrator Jessica McKnight said when cases rise in the community, they also rise in long-term care facilities.

"When the virus is spreading in our community, congregant living settings with vulnerable populations are just there. They’re very vulnerable to the virus being introduced,” said McKnight.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said community spread of the coronavirus is the biggest threat to long-term care facilities.
Credit Johns Hopkins and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Hospitalizations tend to be a lagging indicator of infections in the community. McKnight acknowledged that limits on visitation, symptom screening, and other preventive measures at congregant living facilities also might delay the introduction of the coronavirus into long-term care facilities, but likely won’t stop it.

“The situation that we’re seeing across the state further proves just how easily the virus can spread,” said McKnight. “When you can be potentially contagious 48 hours before you have any symptoms, even when you are doing all the right things, there’s always an opportunity for the virus to spread.”

She said the increase in cases at long-term care facilities began just a few weeks after the September surge when college students returned to the community.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports more than 32,000 cases in nursing homes and long-term care facilities and close to 5,000 deaths during the pandemic.

The places in McLean County that have had cases within the last 28 days include:

  • Aperion Care Bloomington, 4
  • Bickford of Bloomington, 36 with 2 deaths
  • Heritage Health of Normal, 16 with one 1 death
  • The Lofts Rehab and Nursing of Normal, 11 with 1 death
  • The Villas of Holly Brook, Bloomington, 3
  • The Villas of Holly Brook-Towanda Barnes, Bloomington, 17 with 1 death
  • Marcfirst, Bloomington, 8
  • McLean County Nursing Home, Normal, 6
  • Westminster Village/Martin Healthcare, Bloomington, 6

John Hopkins and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have released data that show weekly nursing home cases rose nationwide in late September for the first time in seven weeks after new cases dropped significantly throughout August and early September. According to John Hopkins, COVID cases in the general U.S. population rose by 62,139 cases per week in late September correlating with an uptick in nursing home cases during the week of Sept. 27.

Deaths in nursing homes have declined, though cases are on the rise again and fatalities might increase.
Credit John Hopkins and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

“The number one factor in keeping COVID out of our nursing homes, so we can protect our vulnerable population is reducing the level of the virus in the surrounding community,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the trade group the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living AHCA/NCAL.

“While the support we have received from Congress, the administration and other public health agencies have helped our facilities fight this battle, we could still see another wave of COVID cases caused by the sheer volume of rising cases in communities across the U.S. given the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of this virus.”

The center is lobbying for a pandemic relief bill to ease financial pressure on long-term care facilities and allow them to increase preparations for the winter season.

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