Loading, Please Wait...
Daily Journal
     April 1, 2020      #64-92 KDJ

Shapiro reports coronavirus cases rise to 12 

Daily Journal staff report

KANKAKEE —In the days following the first report of the presence of coronavirus at Shapiro Developmental Center, some staff and clients are stepping forward to say they were not properly notified.

With the number of cases at the center now standing at 12, center officials say they are continuing the precautionary measures started on March 12 and are standing by reports that all staff and client families were notified. 

Among staff members saying they weren’t informed is Meik Millz, who took to Facebook to say that Shapiro failed to notify her of the COVID-19 cases present.

“We were not notified Friday as stated in the [Daily Journal],” her post read. “We were notified by hearsay on Wednesday.”

In an email response to questions from the Daily Journal, an official with the state said the facility was notified of the first confirmed case of coronavirus on March 25.

The infected individual was a staff member, said Patrick Laughlin, deputy director of communications for the Department of Human Services, which operates the Shapiro facility.

All staff were notified the same day, Laughlin said.

“All staff were notified via email, and notices were posted in work areas where employees don’t have access to email,” he said. “We sent a notice to families the following day, March 26th, via U.S. mail.”

Another employee, Eltovise Morris — who describes herself as a proud employee of Shapiro for almost 20 years — told the Daily Journal that staff members don’t have access to Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.

“We were not offered gloves, masks or anything,” she said in an email. “Had we been treated with the respect and dignity we treat our patients this could have been better.”

Responding to inquiries, Laughlin said that all staff members are receiving PPE according to guidelines set forth by Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Shapiro is a residential and training center for people who have an intellectual disability. Of the facility’s 12 confirmed cases, six are residents and six are employees, according to Meghan Powers, IDHS Director of Communication. The 12 cases account for over 70 percent of confirmed cases at long-term care facilities in Kankakee County.

There are 500 residents in the facility on Kankakee’s south side and 1,100 employees.

As the facility works to control spread of the virus, residents are being confined to their rooms. Many residents’ rooms have restroom facilities, Laughlin said. Residents who don’t have restroom facilities in their room have access to a different facility that is close to their room, he said.

Other preventive measures are in place.

“Beginning March 12, all non-essential visitors were restricted from entering State Developmental Centers,” according to a joint statement from IDHS and AFSCME Council 31, which represents the state employees at Shapiro. “Temperature checks for all staff and residents at shift changes were initiated. These, and other critical safety protocols have been carried out and strengthened during the COVID-19 emergency, with direction from an Infectious Disease team, in partnership with local health departments and hospitals.”

A client mother and president of the Friends of the Shapiro Developmental Center, Joan Janzon said “I am confident that all staff at Shapiro are doing everything they can to keep Aaron [her son] and all of the residents of the Shapiro Center safe.”

The Friends of the Shapiro Developmental Center includes relatives and guardians of the nearly 500 Shapiro residents from all over the state.

“I have been in constant communication with Shapiro’s center director and our son’s unit director,” she said via email. “The team is handling this crisis with care, compassion and urgency. It is a fearful time for many families, residents and staff, but I trust the Shapiro Center and believe the staff is going above and beyond to provide the needed care for our son and his fellow residents.”

Preventative measures

Proactive Safety Measures initiated since March 12:

• Centers have closed all on campus day training sites.

• Individuals are not attending off campus day training sites.

• All group activities have been canceled.

• Meals are served separately to individuals and/or small groups while practicing the social distancing guidelines recommended by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

• There are no visitors permitted at the Centers.

• There are no community outings occurring.

• There are no home visits occurring.

• Screening staff for symptoms at designated checkpoints and not allowing them to work if they fail to pass the checkpoint.

• All residents vitals are taken on the morning and evening shifts.

• Continual training of staff regarding sanitation and hand-washing.

• Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) following guidelines from Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

• Enhanced cleaning on frequently touched surfaces, such as doors, handrails and light switches.

• Individuals who exhibit signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are placed in isolation.

— Illinois Department of Human Services

1 of 1