Evanston officials envision only a portion of the residents at the 200-member Three Crowns retirement community in northwest Evanston will have to undergo testing for the Coronavirus after two residents at the facility were hospitalized with the illness.
During a Facebook Live call-in briefing on the Coronavirus on March 19, Mayor Stephen Hagerty and Health & Human Services Director Ike Ogbo were asked if everyone at the facility at 2323 McDaniel Ave. would be tested.
Citing guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Mayor Hagerty and Mr. Ogbo said that widespread testing will not be done for Covid-19 unless an individual is symptomatic.
For now, officials are using a method called “contact tracing,” surveying to identify those who might have been potentially exposed to the two residents who were hospitalized, the mayor and Mr. Ogbo said.
“What we want to do is to identify those who present severe symptoms or symptoms that are indicative of the Coronavirus so that they can be tested,” Mr. Ogbo said.
“And once [they are] tested, that will give us a picture of whether or not they have the virus, so that we can implement public health strategies and public health responses so that people can be isolated from those who aren’t sick – so that those individuals can be monitored “ he said.
As for the patients who were to be discharged from a NorthShore University HealthSystem hospital, Mr. Ogbo said they would remain in isolation upon their return to Three Crowns.
“And, of course, those taking care of these individuals will have to wear protective person equipment – special equipment that will include a mask, goggles, gloves and gowns to receive that individual,” he said during the Facebook Live session.
Mayor Hagerty acknowledged that the City’s approach is influenced in that “we have a limited number of testing capacity and tests.”
On call hookups with the White House and the Governor’s office, he said, “they are working around the clock to try and increase this, but we don’t have enough supplies and enough resources – hence the reason we need to work hard and do our part to slow the spread.”
Responding to one call-in question, Mayor Hagerty said, “you may say a test should be run for everybody – I would agree that would be a beautiful situation. But we’re in a situation right now where we do not have the testing capacity to test everybody.”
“If you have somebody there,” he said to the questioner, “you should be taking and hearing all the guidelines that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] has put out – social distancing, good hygiene. That’s what’s going to keep you safest, but not everybody in the facility is going to be tested.”
Since the Facebook session, Three Crowns has reported in a letter to families that the two residents who presented positive with Covid-19 are due to return today, March 20, to Three Crowns. They are in stable condition, the facility said in the letter, and will remain in isolation at its Health Care Center.
“Evanston Hospital will be giving us supplies of personal protection equipment (PPE) to manage their care “ wrote Phil Hemmer, the Three Crowns Executive Director.
In his letter, Mr. Hemmer reported that Three Crowns officials had met for a second time on March 19 with Dr. Craig Conover, State Epidemiologist with the IDPH, and Mr. Ogbo, and that the officials reaffirmed their view that testing for Covid-19 not be done unless an individual is symptomatic.
In the letter, Mr. Hemmer said Dr. Conover referred to the Department’s experience at the Willowbrook long-term-care facility, where one of the worst outbreaks in the state has occurred thus far.
“At Willowbrook, none of the asymptomatic patients to date has evolved into having a Covid-19,” he said Dr. Conover said in the discussion. “Testing didn’t impact their care or outcome; it did use already limited resources.”
In the conversation, Dr. Conover’s perspective “is that we’re in a ‘new normal,” reported Mr. Hemmer, “and we have to assume we’ve been potentially exposed to Covid-19, just as there is sustained community spread in the Chicago area. He [Dr. Conover] stressed the importance of rigorous infection control, surveillance for illness and screening staff at every shift rather than focusing on testing,” wrote Mr. Hemmer. “He was impressed with the work were doing and said he feels the measures we’ve implemented are on target and well meaning.”
In a report at the Evanston Coronavirus Task Force meeting March 20, Mary Leary, CEO and president of Mather Lifeways, representing the City’s senior living and long term care providers, pointed to the two confirmed cases at Three Crowns and said one provider reported two residents were being tested for Covid-19.
She said 10 providers in a virtual meeting asked her that she share their “urgent need” with the task force.
“The first is the urgent need for Covid-19 tests,” she said, referring to the situation at Three Crowns.
In addition, the providers are seeking a meeting with local hospital representatives to confirm the process for hospital discharges, she said.
“The concern was that many providers are not equipped to manage active cases, and also risk exposing staff to manage active cases, and also risk exposing staff and other residents,” Ms. Leary said.
In addition, providers, including Three Crowns Park, cited a critical shortage of PPE,” she said, noting the City was planning to check with providers and prepare a report on the situation.
“Three Crowns Park also noted a severe staff shortage,” Ms. Leary reported. “Many providers have staff that work for multiple providers, which is a concern in terms of potential transmission” to other locations.
Three Crowns officials reached out to a wide range of public officials, including Governor J.B., Pritzker’s office, seeking help with their situation March 17.
“We want to push every avenue to get the support, testing and supplies needed as soon as humanly possible,” explained Mr. Hemmer in an update to residents and family members. “And to keep the residents with COVID-19 at the Hospital where they can be cared for safely.”
Mr. Ogbo spent time coordinating with NorthShore officials to ensure the patients were kept longer at the hospital, even though they were set to be discharged, Interim City Manager Erika Storlie reported.
Mr. Ogbo reported that he and Dr. Conover visited the facility to educate Three Crown’s managers and their service providers about “matters of protection, symptoms, care and expectations.”
“We will continue to monitor the situation at Three Crowns,” Mr. Ogbo said in an update to aldermen.