2:38 pm update: There are now 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Shapiro Developmental Center
Shapiro Developmental Center now has nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 44 residents exhibiting symptoms of the Virus as of Sunday. That was the information sent out union representatives in a letter obtained by Country Herald, allegedly sent by Facility Center Director Lynne Gund via the AFSCME Local 29 Facebook Group.
The outbreak at Shapiro was first reported by a local newspaper. At the time of the original report on Friday, the facility was only reporting only 6 confirmed cases.
“There are 44 residents being supported in isolation from others due to potential COVID-19 symptoms.” The letter reads. According to the statement posted to the Union Facebook Group, the following units are being supported in isolation at the facility: 514B, 201A, 201B, 100B, 318, 415B, 704A, 704B, 805A, and 411.
Gund reminds Union members in the letter, “That they have potential symptoms does not mean that they are COVID-19 positive, but we are keeping them isolated out of an abundance, to protect them, other residents, and our staff.”
“Little too late,” a Mental Health Technician at the facility told Country Herald Monday morning. “We are just so scared on catching this. We just need something more to be done.”
According to employee reports, Gund only let employees know of the confirmed cases following the publication of the original report of an outbreak in a local newspaper Friday. Up until that time, Shapiro employees were allegedly told the Facility would ‘write up’ employees for wearing PPE while on duty.
“We knew something was up, but (Shapiro) played it off by saying it was the flu. They are only testing if people are taken out by ambulance. Word got around from employees talking, but nothing came from the Director or Assistant Director. (Shapiro) put a lot of people in harm’s way and could have been avoided. Now it’s uncontrollable.” a second Mental Health Technician from Shapiro said Saturday.
Gund told reporters Friday employees had been informed of the cases earlier that morning. Saturday, Shapiro staff were sent a letter indicating they would be required to wear a surgical mask the entire time while at work for 14 days.
“First it was a men’s unit, now it’s all over. We’re waiting to see the numbers from the Kankakee Health Department this morning,” a third Mental Health Technician said on Monday. “The main question from what I am hearing is, does the governor even know or when was he notified?”
“If you have come in direct contact with a resident or staff member with a potential or positive COVID-19 diagnosis, we have already notified you already and shared general protocols,” reads the letter sent to Union members.
The letter goes on the share general hygiene recommendations. Up until Sunday, most Shapiro employees were spooked not knowing where residents who had tested positive were located, as that information was allegedly withheld by Administrative staff.
“They won’t tell us where they are testing positive and they are letting staff go from unit to unit which is putting everyone at risk,” an employee of Shapiro shared with us Friday. IDHS officials released a set of guidelines on March 20th for all state-run facilities to follow over the past weeks, including restricting visitors, screening staff, and restricting residential activities.
Screening at Shapiro began last week. On Friday, Shapiro began issuing masks to their employees.
“Our communicable disease nurses are working tirelessly to follow up with contact investigations and to notify anyone those confirmed cases may have had contact with,” the Kankakee County Health Department assured residents this morning.
As of 8:30 am Monday, Kankakee County Health Department reports 41 cases total of COVID-19 in the county, nine belonging to Shapiro residents and staff.
Employees wishing to issue complaints can file them with the Illinois Comptroller office here.
*Note: Shapiro Employees have been granted protection by Country Herald from being named in this article. We’ve reached out to Governor Pritzker for comments on these reports.