The COVID-19 virus poses an especially high risk to senior citizens, many of whom live in the multiple assisted living homes and nursing care facilities in Oak Park.
Cases of COVID-19 have already taken hold in several of these buildings. Oasis of Oak Park, 625 N. Harlem Ave., has had one staffer and 13 residents test positive. Four residents of Oasis of Oak Park have died of COVID-19.
Oak Park’s public health department tracks COVID-19 instances in these facilities. As of April 27, the chart lists one resident and two members of staff at Belmont Village, 1035 Madison St., as having tested positive for the virus. Berkeley Nursing & Rehab, 6909 W. North Ave., has had one resident test positive, which resulted in death.
Five residents and five staff members have tested positive at Brookdale Oak Park, 1111 Ontario St., with one resident death. Meanwhile, Oak Park Arms, 408 S. Oak Park Ave., has had one resident test positive and zero staff cases.
Interim Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Terry was already working with officials well before any positive diagnoses, according to Oak Park Communications Director David Powers.
“He had them cancel congregate activities and restrict visitors to the facilities, both important steps to protect residents from inadvertent exposure by asymptomatic friends and family,” Powers said.
Public Health Director Mike Charley issued orders requiring that facilities “take very specific steps to comply with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for protection of facility residents and employees,” said Powers.
According to Powers, those specific steps include providing “proper personal protection equipment per CDC and IDPH guidance” to staff who have close contact with an infected individual.
The steps also include taking and recording the temperatures of each employee at the start and end of work shifts. Charley’s order directs facilities to bar any employee with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher from entering or returning.
The order also prohibits senior residences from accepting new residents and does not allow any visitors inside, including delivery personnel inside the building. Staff must accept deliveries outside.
Facilities that do not act in accordance with Charley’s order face legal consequences.
“Failure to comply with a public health order is a Class A misdemeanor under state law, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. In addition, a facility could lose its license and face civil liability,” Powers said.
Two senior residences operated by the Oak Park Residence Corporation – The Oaks, 114 S. Humphrey and Mills Park Tower, 1025 Pleasant Pl. – are not tracked by the public health department because the two buildings do not meet the requirements of providing assisted living or skilled nursing.
Both the Oaks and Mills Park Tower took early steps to protect residents, said David Pope, CEO of ResCorp.
“We were early in putting restrictions on access to the Oaks and Mills Park. The only outside people permitted were employees, medical practitioners, home care aides, mail and package delivery,” said Pope, a former Oak Park village president.
Residents are urged to “treat every other person as an active carrier. Pope said the residents understand their age puts them at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19.
“They’ve done an exceptional job of sheltering in place,” said Pope.
According to Pope, the Oaks has had one suspected case of COVID-19, which resulted in death. Mills Park Tower has no reported cases.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office reported the death of an unnamed 88-year-old man with Belmont Village listed as his residency. According to Belmont Village, that report was made in error.
“We have had no deaths. Period,” said Jeff DeBevec, Belmont Village senior vice president of communications.
DeBevec believes the man may have lived at Belmont Village at one point, but never changed his address upon moving out of the facility.
Belmont Village corporate instituted preventative COVID-19 procedures within its locations back in March.
“We have engaged an expert at Johns Hopkins University to educate our company on infectious disease control,” DeBevec said. “We regularly collaborate with geriatricians at the University of California San Francisco on influenza mitigation and best practices at our communities.”