Illinois nursing home residents are suffering their biggest jump in COVID-19 infections in nearly six months, according to state public health data posted Friday afternoon.
Over the past week, Illinois has recorded more than 2,412 cases among residents of long-term care facilities, assisted living establishments and other congregate-care centers, the data show.
That’s the highest one-week count since May 8, when nursing home COVID-19 infections peaked at 4,027, before a decline over the next two months.
The rise is not surprising given a surge in COVID-19 cases across Illinois in recent weeks. The daily tally of confirmed infections in the state exceeded 10,000 for the first time Friday. The state this week also topped 10,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Deaths to nursing-home residents due to the virus are also up, according to the data, posted weekly by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In the past week, the state has recorded 126 nursing home fatalities. That’s more than double the weekly average reported in September.
The spike lifts the COVID-19 death toll tied to nursing homes for the entire pandemic to 5,253 residents, or 52.1% of total Illinois fatalities due to the coronavirus.
But the percentage of nursing home residents among the state’s COVID-19 victims has been much lower in recent months than during the virus’s first surge last spring. This past week, nursing home residents accounted for 34.2% of reported state fatalities. In May and June, they accounted for 62.3% of the state total.
Numerous studies have found that a strong predictor of nursing home COVID-19 infections is prevalence of the virus in surrounding communities.
“Research shows that what matters most in protecting nursing home residents is based on community spread at large,” said Natalie Bauer Luce, a spokeswoman for Symphony Care Network, a chain of 20 long term care facilities centered in Chicago.
“As positivity rates rise in every region in Illinois, we implore community members to follow the science — wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands,” Bauer Luce said. “While COVID fatigue is real, following these guidelines is the only way we as a community will reduce the spread of coronavirus.”