First coronavirus death in Illinois; 22 cases at DuPage County nursing home

  • People visited in small groups along an access road Tuesday afternoon at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook. Earlier in the day, Gov. J.B. Pritzker revealed that 18 residents and four employees at the facility have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

      People visited in small groups along an access road Tuesday afternoon at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook. Earlier in the day, Gov. J.B. Pritzker revealed that 18 residents and four employees at the facility have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • People visited in small groups along an access road Tuesday afternoon at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook.

      People visited in small groups along an access road Tuesday afternoon at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown Monday, announced Illinois' first death from COVID-19 on Tuesday.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker, shown Monday, announced Illinois' first death from COVID-19 on Tuesday. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 3/17/2020 8:30 PM

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced the state's first COVID-19 death, of a Chicago woman in her 60s, and an outbreak in a nursing home in Willowbrook.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois has reached 160, officials said, compared to 105 announced Monday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There are 22 confirmed cases of the disease ­-- 18 residents and four staff members -- at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook, a 150-bed facility.

"Each of the individuals that these 22 people have come in contact with will now be tracked and identified and asked about how they're feeling, and we'll start monitoring them as well," DuPage Health Department Executive Director Karen Ayala said during a Tuesday evening press briefing. "What we know on average is that each case that is identified often comes with an average of 90 individuals who they have come into contact with, so it's a large number of individuals that we'll be reaching out to."

When health officials contact those people, she said, "we recommend that they stay at home, that they self-quarantine and that they reach out for medical care if and when they develop medical symptoms."

Ayala said officials provided 200 test kits for the facility and praised the state health department for "working to get those test kits to us, particularly for this extremely vulnerable population."

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Health officials said they don't know how the virus got into the facility.

"We don't know how it was contracted, but we do appreciate the quick action of the clinical staff at the nursing home, and we feel that it was because of their quick action, both in diagnosing as well as providing the preventive measures, that will help us," Ayala said. "Even though the number seems high, the actions that they took will be helpful going forward."

When he learned of the 22 cases Tuesday, "I said, 'Oh my God,'" DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "My heart sank, and I immediately thought of all the families and the folks over there that have been working round-the-clock to prevent this from spreading."

"We've got to be strong," Cronin said, adding that everyone needs to be practicing social distancing. "We have been working with this long-term care facility for several weeks. I believe that the owners and the operators are responsible people."

DuPage County announced a disaster proclamation Sunday during a briefing after the first Chateau COVID-19 case was confirmed.

"Our residents' health, safety and well-being is our highest priority," said Ron Nunziato, CEO of Extended Care LLC, the consulting company working with Chateau on Sunday. "We anticipated it wasn't if, it was when, a resident would become affected."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Centers for Disease Control and Illinois Department of Public Health are working with DuPage and Chateau officials.

"We got our team in there and came up with a plan to test every resident on Sunday," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said.

"All of the individuals who have tested positive are now isolated at the facility or at a hospital, and visitors have been restricted," Pritzker said.

The Illinoisan who died was a Chicagoan who had come into contact with a person diagnosed with the coronavirus and was diagnosed with the disease earlier in March.

Later Tuesday, the Cook County medical examiner's office said a 61-year-old woman from Chicago had died Monday at University of Chicago Medical Center and had tested positive for COVID-19.

McHenry County reported two additional cases Tuesday. The women, one in her 40s and one in her 50s, had no travel to a high-risk country or contact with a known COVID-19 patient and are considered to be community transmission, the health department reported. The county's cases now total four.

Pritzker said "there are moments when we feel like this is more than we can bear. This is one of those moments, but we will get through this together."

"All of Illinois stands with this patient's family and loved ones in mourning her loss and honoring her memory," Pritzker said.

Experts expect that for a majority of people in good health under age 60, the infection would result in a mild illness with symptoms similar to the common cold or flu. Those might include sore throat, runny nose, aches, fever and coughing.

But for the elderly and those with medical conditions such as heart disease, it can result in serious illness and death.

However, Ezike noted that the first two people diagnosed with COVID-19 in late January have recovered and are out of quarantine.

Pritzker, who has clashed with the White House over a lack of test kits for COVID-19, said Tuesday "the federal government is monopolizing supplies and not giving them to the states."

On Monday, Pritzker prohibited gatherings of 50 people or more on the heels of ordering restaurants and bars to close with the exception of takeout service.

He clarified that essential services like groceries, drug stories, banks, credit unions and shelters should remain open.

And to critics who suggested he was overstepping his constitutional authority, Pritzker disagreed, saying Tuesday, "It is exactly in times like these when the constitutional boundaries of democracy should be respected."

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Steve Zalusky contributed to this report.

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