While much of the attention related to COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable populations has focused on deaths at nursing homes, infection rates are remarkably high in another kind of residential setting: state-operated centers for adults with cognitive or behavioral disabilities.
As of Thursday, more than 1 in 5 people living in these developmental centers had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, state data shows. That’s more than double the infection rate seen in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where confirmed cases account for about 7% of residents, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Of about 1,650 people who live in the seven developmental centers, which are scattered throughout the state, at least 355 have tested positive, or 21.5%. Eight residents have died, as have four workers.
These facilities share some characteristics with other congregate-care settings, such as shared living quarters and the need for workers to bathe residents, change diapers and perform other intimate tasks. But the developmental centers face specific challenges in fighting the virus. Many residents can’t wash their hands on their own or wear masks. They may not understand why their families aren’t coming to visit or why they can’t leave the home for their usual activities.
So when COVID-19 arrived in the facilities, it spread quickly.
At Elisabeth Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest, 59% of about 340 residents and about 13% of the 900 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday. More than 37% of residents have tested positive at the Jack Mabley Developmental Center in Dixon, in the western part of the state, which has about 112 residents. So have 13% of the roughly 215 workers.
Only the William Fox Developmental Center in Dwight, the smallest of the seven centers with 80 residents, has reported no cases to date. […]
At Shapiro, 71 residents had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Thursday— about 15% of the resident population. And at the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia, about 11% of residents had tested positive. Many were asymptomatic; many already have recovered, workers and family members said. […]
Many Illinois adults with developmental disabilities live not in the state-run centers but in privately operated facilities as well as hundreds of group homes. The state recently began tracking cases in many of the midsize private facilities that often serve people with more significant medical needs and have suffered some severe outbreaks. For example, at Golfview Developmental Center in suburban Cook County, a privately operated 135-bed facility, there have been 94 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10 deaths, according to the state.