An Evanston senior center has announced a third case of COVID-19 in its facility.
The latest resident to test positive at Three Crowns Park resided in a different wing than the facility’s 24-hour nursing care building, where the two previously infected residents lived. Still, state officials say they will not test the general population at the Evanston senior residence.
In recent days, staff and family of residents at the Evanston center have been pressing the state to do the kind of broad testing they performed at a nursing home in west suburban Willowbrook earlier this week. Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Willowbrook now has 48 confirmed cases of COVID-19, largely because the state performed tests of residents and staff there. Prior to the testing, the facility had only reported one confirmed case.
But state public health officials stood firm on their position that testing would only be conducted for individuals showing symptoms.
“We must preserve resources to enable health care workers to use them where they are most needed. Once a cluster of COVID-19 cases has been identified in a congregate facility, CDC guidance does not recommend testing all residents and staff,” state officials said in an email late Friday afternoon. “Health care facilities should properly isolate individuals and provide appropriate care and medical treatment. Should the facilities feel additional testing is needed and not follow CDC’s guidance, they can work with a commercial or hospital lab.”
But state officials repeatedly failed to answer email inquiries about why the state didn’t follow that guidance at the Willowbrook nursing home.
Meanwhile, Three Crowns Park released a letter Friday to friends and family of residents, which suggests that state officials may have made a mistake when they tested dozens at the Willowbrook facility.
Three Crown Park’s executive director Phil Hemmer wrote that he met with Illinois and Evanston health officials on Thursday who explained more about testing issues. Hemmer’s characterization of a state health official’s comments during that meeting suggested that the kind of blanket testing done in Willowbrook put people at risk while “wasting [personal protective equipment] and other resources.”
In the letter, Hemmer further stated that the state health official explained that such widespread testing can produce “false positives” for patients who might test positive the next day. “At Willowbrook none of the asymptomatic patients to-date have evolved into having COVID-19 illness,” Hemmer said the state official told him. “Testing didn’t impact their care or outcome; it did use already limited resources. They don’t recommend haphazard testing aimed at identifying asymptomatic people.”
State officials did not respond to questions about the accuracy of Hemmer’s characterization nor the suggestion that perhaps their protocol in Willowbrook “wasted resources.”
Monica Eng is a WBEZ reporter. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org