CHICAGO (CBS) — A longtime nurse at University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System has died of COVID-19.
The nurse had worked at the hospital for more than 10 years, and leaves behind a husband and two children.READ MORE: Jury Selection To Begin Monday In Jussie Smollett Trial
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports she was just one of thousands of healthcare workers in Illinois who have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
Illinois Nurses Association President Terence Yee was a friend and colleague of the late nurse. He said she wasn’t working directly with COVID-19 patients, and was stationed in another part of the hospital, so that just shows how difficult it can be to corral this virus.
“For the new nurses, they feel like she’s like their mother. She’s easy to talk to. No matter how much of an argument you’re going to have back and forth, by the end of the day, it feels like it was nothing,” he said.
UI Health CEO Michael Zenn said the hospital system is “deeply and profoundly saddened by the loss of a dedicated and talented member of our UI Health family due to COVID-19.”
“Our thoughts are with this individual’s family and friends during this difficult time. Our entire UI Health and university community is grateful to the health care providers and essential workers who continue to work on the front lines during this pandemic,” Senn said in a statement.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also paid tribute to the nurse during the governor’s daily COVID-19 briefing on Saturday.
“We thank them, and we also are praying for the family members who are going to be affected by this loss,” Ezike said. “It’s a sad and sobering truth that the people who are doing the most to protect the society as a whole are also falling victim.”
CBS 2 has learned that at least eight health care workers in Illinois have died of the novel coronavirus, and more than 2,500 have been infected. The number could be much higher, since many of the state’s reports don’t list the patients’ occupation.READ MORE: At Least 41 People Wounded, 5 Killed In Thanksgiving Weekend Shootings In Chicago
“Because we weren’t sure how to deal with it at the very beginning, we got exposed,” University of Illinois Hospital nurse Cynthia Meza told CBS 2 on Friday.
Meza said she’s one of just three nurses who have managed to stay healthy on her shift, out of 24 in all.
Ezike was asked Saturday about the state’s policy on testing nurses and other healthcare workers.
“There’s not a policy at the state level. Each hospital has their own staff testing policy that they’re following,” Ezike said.
Just because someone works in the healthcare setting, that doesn’t guarantee they’ve been tested.
“There are people who have been working since the beginning of this, and maybe they haven’t been tested. So again, I don’t know that we know the full number,” Ezike said.
What she does know is the risk healthcare workers face each time they suit up for work.
“We know we’ve had thousands of healthcare workers who are among the positives we’ve had. We have had deaths in our healthcare workforce,” she said.MORE NEWS: 17-Year-Old Boy Killed, 4 Injured In Evanston Shooting
Ezike was asked if she could confirm a report that more than 20% of healthcare workers at University of Illinois Hospital had become sick. She did not directly answer the question, and UI Health officials did not confirm or deny the report.