CHICAGO (CBS) — Nursing homes were the first places to see coronavirus outbreaks. After a summer of good numbers there is renewed concern about a second surge. Now the facility in Willowbrook that felt COVID-19 hardest last March is sharing the lesson they learned and what they are keeping an eye on.
When the story at Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center first broke, the virus was still mostly unknown. In the months that followed seven people died and fifty cases sprouted from the facility. Administrators called it war. And they are afraid that battle could be starting up again.
“I don’t believe I’ve had a full night’s sleep since March 13,” said Ron Nunziato, CEO of Extended Care LLC.
The 13th was a Friday and the battle was on.
“We were going to war,” Nunziato said.
Also From CBS Chicago:
- New Wave Of COVID-19 Has Doctors, Hospitals On Notice
- Police At Home Of Former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson After Domestic Dispute
- ‘It’s About Survival:’ Suburban Restaurants Flout COVID-19 Restrictions
If Chicago was in a war against COVID, this Willowbrook nursing home was the front line. It was by far the first Chicago outbreak, where final goodbyes were said through windows.
“It was emotional. It was dramatic,” said Nunziato. “On some levels it was very heartening. On others it was very disheartening.”
By summer access to personal protective equipment and infection control stabilized, guests returned, and the cloud lifted. But they are creeping back into the forecast.
“I am concerned. We have started to see small outbreaks in a few facilities,” Nunziato said.
It’s a trend seen and felt in Chicago and felt by Illinois’ top doctor, Ngoze Ezike, who was brought to tears during a briefing last week.
“My heart went out to her,” Nunziato said. “There were several days where I would cry all the way home. At that time it was just an unknown.”
They are bracing for the next round of unknowns, starting with Thanksgiving.
“I will not be going to my family for Thanksgiving. I have an 80-some-odd-year-old mother,” he said. “I don’t want to expose them. I want them to be safe, and that’s my responsibility as a healthcare provider.
The biggest lesson learned from march was how to better serve the families of residents and the anxiety and emotion toll it took on those people. They say they have improved protocols in the last seven months.