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Illinois Nursing Homes Must Test All Residents and Staff Under New State Mandate

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Thursday that it is now requiring nursing homes in the state to test all residents and staff for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Nursing home residents are at higher risk for infection, serious illness and death from COVID-19,” IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “While many facilities are working with IDPH and their local health departments to help keep residents safe, we cannot rely on voluntary compliance alone, and this additional regulatory authority will help ensure swift action.” 

The new rule requires nursing homes to develop a testing plan and provide evidence they’ve established a relationship with a testing lab, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during Thursday’s coronavirus briefing. The rule also requires facilities to comply “with infection control recommendations at large,” Pritzker said. 

Each facility is to report to public health officials with test results. The results will be used to identify people who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, confirm infection in people who do have symptoms, and to make decisions and more, the governor said. Facilities that don’t comply will face fines or the loss of their operating license. 

There have so far been 14,882 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,402 fatalities in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to state data. Around 44 percent of all deaths caused by the virus in Illinois have been among residents and staffers at such facilities. 

All nursing homes in the U.S. are required to have an infection control and prevention plan ready in case of a disease outbreak. Facilities that fail to take state-recommended guidelines to protect their vulnerable residents may be held liable for any resulting deterioration in health or death.  

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