Governor J.B. Pritzker announced new staffing procedures and visitor restrictions Wednesday at state-run nursing homes as the coronavirus spreads.
"We are very, very concerned about our senior facilities," Pritzker said at a morning news conference with local leaders and health officials.
Pritzker said healthcare workers who work at state-run facilities will be checked before their shifts to make sure they are not sick. The state is also discouraging family members under the age of 18 from coming to visit their relatives.
Illinois has 1,200 long-term care facilities serving more than 100,000 residents, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Pritzker said the state is asking privately-run nursing homes to match state guidelines.
The coronavirus is most severe in members of the elderly population who have underlying medical conditions. In Washington State, 18 residents at a single nursing home facility died.
The Department of Veterans' Affairs on Wednesday implemented a "no visitors" policy at nursing homes, including those in Illinois, due to coronavirus concerns.
ManorCare in Homewood is also limiting visitors, except in certain circumstances such as end-of-life situations and when a visitor is "determined to be essential for the patient's...emotional well-being as determined by the interdisciplinary team," according to its website.
"We have about 100 different nursing home facilities that our members work at, so you will see some variation in the ways owners are approaching it," said Greg Kelley, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois. The union represents 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois.
Kelley said guidelines to protect nursing home residents from the outside is important, but he said making sure staff members have everything they need inside the facility to provide proper care is just as crucial.
"There are a whole host of things," Kelley said. "Proper equipment - there are actually different types of masks, so some masks are better than others. Quality masks, quality gowns...we've heard stories from folks who have had to use trash bags and sort of gowns. That's not going to work."
Kelley said ensuring workers get paid sick leave would help immensely in the spread against disease. Right now, workers who are quarantined because of coronavirus exposure would not be paid for most of the 14 days.
"For low wage workers, you miss one day of pay, you're talking about potential disaster," Kelley said.