Cases of COVID-19 top 135,000; outdoor visitation at nursing homes allowed with conditions
After weeks of separation, Illinois families will be able to see their loved ones in nursing homes under strict conditions intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
New rules on the Illinois Department of Public Health website allow two prescreened people at a time to visit residents outdoors using social distancing and facial masks.
However, an IDPH spokeswoman noted Friday "it is up to each facility when or if they will implement outdoor visitations."
The news came as cases of coronavirus rose by 692 Friday, while deaths increased by 44, the IDPH reported.
That brings the total cases in Illinois to 135,470, with the number of people perishing from the respiratory disease standing at 6,580.
Nursing homes in Illinois have been hit hard by the pandemic, so reuniting families is priceless for residents at Lutheran Home in Arlington Heights, corporate communications director Rex Paisley said.
"We know what a stressor it's been," Paisley said.
Even though the smiles will be covered by a mask, "it's so important to be with the people you love," he said.
Paisley said Lutheran Home, like other facilities, just received the state guidance Friday and is still finalizing plans on where to locate outdoor visits and manage staffing and screening. That process should be complete next week, but Lutheran Home will reach out to families by email and provide information on the website, he said.
IDPH rules dated Thursday require visitors to call ahead to schedule a get-together, be screened by phone using a U.S. Centers for Disease Control symptoms checklist, and undergo another screening and temperature check upon arrival to ensure long-term care residents are not infected. Reunions will be supervised by staff members to ensure families and friends are staying 6 feet apart.
Several COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at nursing homes. Infections at long-term care facilities comprise 16% or 21,476 of the state's total cases, but nursing home residents who have died from the virus total 3,649, or 55% of the state's 6,580 fatalities.
Visits to nursing homes were restricted in mid-March. On May 28, the IDPH required testing of residents and staff members at those facilities.
As the state moves toward relaxing more stay-at-home restrictions next week, positivity testing rates for COVID-19 remain at 3% based on a seven-day average for Illinois, and at 5% for Chicago and the suburbs.
June 26 marks the date Illinois is expected to shift into Phase 4 or Revitalization of a five-phase reopening plan that allows groups of 50 or less to gather, and would permit schools to offer in-class instruction and movie theaters to resume operations with restrictions.
Meanwhile, the 44 deaths reported Friday are lower than the June daily average of about 64 or May's average of 99 people. The case tally of 692 Friday is less than the June daily average of 788 and May's average of 2,156.
Also Friday, Lake County officials warned of scammers pretending to be contact tracers for COVID-19 who ask for personal information, such as bank account or Social Security numbers. Bona fide contact tracers would never require those details and anyone receiving suspicious phone calls or emails should contact their local health department or police department.