COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has spread to residents and staff at a nursing home in Sherman, just north of Springfield.
The Sangamon County Department of Public Health confirmed the outbreak Tuesday night, the first at a senior living center in the county.
One resident of The Villas died last week, a man in his 90s who tested positive for COVID-19.
Another two residents, in their 80s and 90s, and four employees have also tested positive, according to the health department.
Gail O’Neill, the director of the health department, said the outbreak is concerning because the residents are at higher risk for severe infections.
“People who live in close quarters with one another, the chances of spreading the virus one to another is great," she said. "So that’s one of the concerns with congregate living facilities as we see here with nursing homes."
The facility is following Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines to protect residents and staff from contracting the disease, including requiring employees to wear masks and checking employees' temperature before shifts. The Villas also instituted visitor restrictions in March, according to Melissa Beaver, vice president for community relations and marketing at Heritage Operations Group, LLC, which manages the operations for the nursing home.
Beaver said staff are also checking residents' temperatures regularly.
"We also emphasize effective, positive and swift communication to our families and employees as part of our processes," Beaver said.
The Villas also includes an assisted living center and reitrement community. Beaver said there is no evidence that residents there are affected by the outbreak.
Eighty-one people live at the 99-bed skilled nursing facility, according to O’Neill .
An employee had the first confirmed case and tested positive in mid-March. But no other cases were detected until the man in his 90s died last week. O’Neill said the county didn’t identify it as an outbreak until this week, when there were more confirmed cases.
“Once we have two in a congregate setting, then that’s a cluster. And when we get to three or four it’s an outbreak,” she said.
In addition to the seven with confirmed cases, five more residents are symptomatic. One resident’s test is pending. O’Neill said the county health department is working with The Villas and the Illinois Department of Public Health to have more residents and employees tested, and to deliver more protective equipment.
She said the management at The Villas has been cooperative and is following proper procedures to stem the spread of the disease. The sick employees, who range in age from 20s to 60s, are isolating at home, while sick residents are isolated in their rooms.
"While the caregiving staff continues to adhere to the infection prevention measures we have in place, they continue to provide uninterrupted services to our residents and stability to their daily routine especially during this Coronavirus pandemic," said Ben Hart, president and CEO of Heritage Operations Group, in an emailed statement.
IDPH began publishing data tracking outbreaks at nursing home and long-term care facilities last weekend. Cases at The Villas do not appear on the database, which will be updated weekly according to the website.
The tracking site shows outbreaks at 186 facilities across the state, with more than 1,800 confirmed cases and 286 deaths.
Editor's Note: Heritage Operations Group, LLC, manages the operations for The Villas. A previous version incorrectly stated it owns the nursing home. We apologize for the error.