A family is in mourning after their father passed away due to coronavirus-related complications, one of at least 14 fatalities at a Chicago nursing home since the pandemic began.
Manuel Vazquez, 81, spoke to his family on Tuesday, just hours before he passed away from the virus.
“He just said he was okay,” Vazquez’s daughter Mildred said. “(We’re all) emotionally overwhelmed.”
Manuel was a resident at Woodbridge Nursing Pavilion in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.
“They mentioned my dad was positive. I said ‘when was he tested?’” Mildred said. “There was no proof, nothing in the mail.”
Officials at the facility say they were notified of his positive test on April 26, and they notified members of Vazquez's family the next day.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health website, there have been at least 151 positive cases of the virus at Woodbridge. The facility reports that it has at least 131 residents that have tested positive for the virus, but says it is “working with IDPH” to determine why there is a discrepancy in the data.
The facility says that as of May1, at least 14 residents have passed away as a result of the virus.
“They were getting paid to take care of my dad, and now I don’t have a father. He’s gone!” Miguel Vazquez, Manuel’s son, said.
According to officials at the facility, they received test kits on April 22 and tested all residents at the home.
“You cannot fight an invisible enemy without being able to see your enemy,” the facility said in a statement. “Being able to test every resident allows us to understand who may be positive and asymptomatic. By testing every resident, we are armed with information that allows us to plan a more aggressive isolation strategy….reducing the risk of infecting other residents we know are truly negative for COVID-19.”
Vazquez’s children say that the facility told them they reported the positive test to the Department of Health, but that officials weren’t doing anything to help them. Whatever the case, the children want answers about what happened to their father, and why they weren’t notified of what was going on until the very end of his life.
“We want accountability. We are not the only family that has suffered this,” Miguel said. “We could’ve done things differently for my dad.”
Facility officials say they remain confident in the work they are doing to keep residents safe.
“Due to our proactive approach, we have had 10 residents recover from the virus, and we anticipate further recoveries on a daily basis,” officials said. “While the numbers are daunting, we are confident in the care we are providing by having this information to better care for our residents.”
Facility officials say that social distancing guidelines are in effect, with no large dining groups and no group outings. Enhanced environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures are also in place.
All staff members are being assessed at the beginning of their shifts and halfway through their shifts, and any staffers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are being sent home to self-isolate.
Officials at the facility also released a statement on how the public can help amid the pandemic:
We have many ways that the local community can be supportive of our staff & residents. Our staff & residents would love to receive encouraging notes and care packages. We would love for our staff that is doing extraordinary work to feel the support and positivity of the community acknowledge their efforts.
Our biggest challenge is staffing, and we currently have openings for Nurses and C.N.A.'s. We also have opportunities in the laundry department and evening housekeeping support.
Woodbridge Nursing Pavilion is committed to having the staff required for our facility and use outside agencies, if ever a shortage. We would prefer not to have to use outside agencies, so we are encouraging anyone looking to help out locally to apply to firstname.lastname@example.org