Two Additional Deaths At The Villas East, And More Tests Lead To More Positives

Apr 29, 2020

Two more residents of The Villas East in Sherman, both women in their 80s, died from COVID-19 at HSHS St. John’s Hospital Wednesday, the Sangamon County Department of Public Health reported.

The deaths bring the toll from the virus at the nursing home to seven.

Testing of most residents and staff happened on Monday. Since then, the number of confirmed cases has more than doubled – reaching 89 on Wednesday, including 54 residents and 35 staff.

Melissa Beaver, a spokeswoman for Heritage Operations Group, which runs the facility, said one challenge is that some who have the coronavirus didn’t have the fever, cough or other symptoms associated with the disease that would lead to getting tested before.

“If you don’t know where (the disease) is in the building – especially with asymptomatic residents and staff – you can’t control it,” she said.

Beaver said she appreciates the support of the county and state health departments in implementing infection control protocols. The Illinois Department of Public Health provided 100 kits last week.

Eighteen residents sick with COVID-19 are hospitalized, while the ones who remain at The Villas are in a designated wing of the facility.

Employees who test positive are sent home, with pay, to quarantine for two weeks, Beaver said.

Staff at the facility are wearing N-95 masks, gowns and protective eyewear to care for residents with the coronavirus.

Beaver says the outbreak has been stressful for staff and residents.

“It’s very emotionally challenging to take care of the residents and do these protocols,” Beaver said.

Gail O’Neill, director of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health, said she expects there to be more confirmed cases in the coming days. Results from 41 tests are still pending, according to the county health department.

O’Neill said the health department will know when the outbreak is contained when there are no more positive cases. She said re-testing some staff and residents could happen in a few weeks.

O’Neill said the health department is in regular communication with employees at the long-term care facility. Staff with the health department pick up the testing kits daily to take to the IDPH lab in Springfield for analysis. The department has provided more protective equipment.

The Villas East is the long-term care facility, while The Villas West, across the street, is an independent living community. Beaver confirmed there are no cases associated with The Villas West.