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Illinois Publishes COVID-19 Data From Nursing Homes After Criticism

A screenshot of the map tracking COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
Illinois Department of Public Health
A screenshot of the map tracking COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

In Illinois, at least 186 nursing homes and long-term care facilities are reporting at least one confirmed COVID-19 case, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, according to new data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Over the weekend, the department began publishing data tracking clusters of cases and deaths by facility, after the governor faced criticism for not releasing that information.

More than 1,800 confirmed cases are connected to the facilities statewide, including 286 deaths, according to an analysis of IDPH data.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent part of his daily news briefing Monday explaining how his administration is assisting these facilities, including expanded testing and sending infectious disease specialists to train staff on properly using protective equipment and other protocols to control the rapid spread of the disease.

“We’re prioritizing testing at long-term care facilities that are home to our populations where a COVID infection is more likely to lead to higher severity cases, especially among Black and brown communities,” he said.

Testing for COVID-19 at state-run labs has been prioritized for residents and staff at senior living centers and other congregate settings where there are already confirmed cases. Pritzker said the priority will now extend to facilities where there aren’t yet confirmed cases.

In response to questions over the accuracy of the data, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said there will be a lag as the numbers are pulled from a national disease surveillance system and from local health departments reporting outbreaks. The data will be updated weekly, according to the website.

For example, Fair Havens Senior Center in Decatur is reporting a total of nine deaths due to COVID-19, while the state’s website listed three for the county as of Monday evening.

ICU Bed And Ventilator Capacity

Pritzker also reviewed intensive care unit beds and ventilator capacity statewide, two metrics that can show how well a state or country is responding to the coronavirus.

Patients sick with COVID-19 are occupying about 40% of 3,100 ICU beds, Pritzker said. The percentage has held steady in recent weeks as hospitals have expanded capacity to care for the sickest patients.

The number of hospitalizations is still growing, though at a slightly slower rate. Pritzker said that’s proof that social distancing efforts have been effective.

“With the current mitigation strategies in place, we may not have reached our peak yet, but your actions are keeping that peak as low as possible,” he said.

Early models of how the pandemic would progress showed hospitals might be overwhelmed with patients and need more beds and ventilators.

Meanwhile, IDPH data show more than three-quarters of Illinois’ ventilators are available, thanks in part to the purchase of a thousand machines in March, Pritzker said.

Kae Petrin of St. Louis Public Radio contributed to this story.


Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional data from the IDPH website. 

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit .

Mary is a reporter at NPR Illinois and graduated from the Public Affairs Reporting program atUISand received her BA in International Studies from American University. Previously Mary worked as a planning consultant and reported for the State Journal-Register where she covered city government.