Over 100% infected? IDPH reports 74 residents positive at Riverside Miller Center in Kankakee

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It’s easy to forget Illinois saw its first case of COVID-19 way back on January 24th.  

We were the second state in the U.S. to even confirm a case of the virus.  

While this pandemic has been lost to political, social, and summertime winds of change. Kankakee County has seen one of its best weeks for new cases to date surrounding the pandemic.  Since June 1st, the county has averaged less than four new cases per day.  Nursing homes and long-term care facilities remain stuck in a hellish experience, which continues to plague state and county officials.

As of June 13th, 11 independent facilities in the county labeled ‘OPEN’ for COVID-19 active cases by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Statistically, none have seen a worse overall resident infection and fatality rate than Riverside’s Miller Rehabilitation Center.

In an update Friday night, IDPH announced Riverside’s Miller Center had eclipsed its original resident totals in Kankakee infected with COVID-19, reporting 74 residents at the home had been infected. That number went from half of all residents on April 28th to overcapacity reported in April of 70 total residents. 

Those are “not just numbers and statistics,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike back in early May. “These are real people and there are families and loved ones who are suffering with each of them whether in their illness or their unfortunate passing.” Statewide, Illinois long-term care facilities now report 3,433 coronavirus deaths, that’s 54 percent of all deaths related to COVID-19 in the State.   

Riverside’s other senior care facility, Riverside Senior Life at Bourbonnais, has seen 11 infections and two deaths to date.

Riverside Healthcare has stonewalled multiple media requests surrounding COVID-19 infections and deaths at their five-star long-term care facility.  We’ve reached out to IDPH for confirmation on the recent report.

Illinois has not provided a date when nursing home restrictions might be lifted, but it’s presumed that won’t happen until Stage 5 has been reached. 

We live in a digital era of constant contact, designed for epic response rates in emergencies. With protocols in place for a pandemic. So what happened here in Kankakee to lead to one of the worst saturation numbers at a facility in the State of Illinois?

Multiple employees we’ve spoken with have told us, fearfully, they ‘will be terminated’ if they choose to go on the record with such requests. Riverside Healthcare is a private, non-profit hospital. Its employees are not unionized to protect freedom and termination for speaking on an employer’s practices.

The Hospital has participated in disasters in the past locally dealing with contagions. In 2008, one such scenario involved hundreds of “victims” being hit by an anthrax-laced bomb at a Olivet Nazarene University sporting event, resulting in “mass casualties.” Events have been designed to prepare the hospital for such a crisis.

The last such event took place on October 24th, 2019, just under five months before the pandemic came to scale in Illinois.

On March 9th, Governor Pritzker declared all counties in Illinois a disaster area. Two days later on March 11th, the world came to a standstill as the NBA shut down and WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, a word once considered unprecedented. Yet Riverside didn’t even comment on it to the public until March 14th.

On Wednesday, Country Herald sat down and reviewed three months’ worth of Riverside Healthcare’s public timeline as an organization surrounding the pandemic. Dates tied to the response here in Kankakee County, its arrival in Illinois, and fluidity and adoption of advice as an organization given by IDPH officials, tying into global events of note.   

  • October 24th, 2019 – Riverside Healthcare participates in a county-wide disaster drill.
  • January 24th, 2020 – City of Chicago announces the first case of COVID-19 in Illinois. The patient was the case was just the second in the entire United States. The person had recently traveled to Wuhan, China.
  • March 9th, 2020 – Governor JB Pritzker declares all counties in the State of Illinois as a disaster area due to COVID-19.
  • March 11th, 2020 – WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic, NBA suspends season after player tests positive
  • March 11th, 2020 – Illinois had lockdown and issued new restrictions for nursing home visitors.
  • March 12th, 2020 – IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike says “We all need to take action now by postponing large events and restricting visits to nursing homes to limit the spread. “in a statement. At the time Illinois had 32 confirmed cases.
  • March 12th, 2020 – MLB suspends seasonNHL and MLS follow suit.
  • March 14th, 2020 – Seven weeks after the first reported case in Illinois, Riverside Healthcare says: “We want to reassure the public we have policies and procedures in place to help us address this current pandemic” Riverside said in a statement. “pandemics (e.g., H1N1, Swine Flu, Ebola), is not new for Riverside, where emergency preparedness training is a year-round activity.”  
  • March 15th, 2020 – Riverside issued visitor restrictions at the hospital in Kankakee, limiting access to only one visitor at a time for patients in all areas.
  • March 16th, 2020 – Executive Order Number 7 restricts gatherings of 50 or more, closing fitness centers across Illinois by 9 pm that night. The order includes bars, restaurants, theaters, and private clubs.
  • March 17th, 2020 – IDPH announces first death tied to a nursing home from COVID-19 in Dupage County.
  • March 18th, 2020 – Riverside closed an Immediate Care branch at Meijer in Bradley.  
  • March 19th, 2020 – State Department issues a Level 4 “do not travel” advisory, the highest advisory the federal agency can issue.
  • March 19th, 2020 – Riverside Healthcare sees its first case of COVID-19 at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee. The following day the hospital revoked visitor access. “Riverside has been preparing and will continue to follow proper protocol. Effective immediately and until further notice, we are not allowing visitors.” The hospital said in a statement at the time.
  • March 19th, 2020 – Riverside Fitness Center closed its doors.
  • March 19th, 2020 – CDC released guidelines for Nursing Homes, a full eight days after IDPH 
  • March 21st, 2020 – Original Stay-at-Home order starts at 5 pm on Saturday in Illinois
  • April 8th, 2020 – Reports of as many as 10 residents had been infected at Miller.  
  • April 15th, 2020 – Reports of infected confirmed at Miller Center by Riverside CEO Phil Kambit who says in a press release, “I want you to know the strength of our entire system is being brought to bear on the situation. Our leadership at the facility and throughout the Riverside continuum are working seamlessly around the clock to further protect and care for these residents.” 
  • April 15th, 2020 – All staff at Miller had been instructed to follow strict protocols for their protection and that of the residents.
  • April 17th, 2020 – Two days later, Miller Center sees its first death due to the disease.  
  • April 28th, 2020 – IDPH reports over 50% of residents infected at Miller Center. 
  • June 2nd, 2020 – Riverside Fitness Center reopens the fitness floor; other areas including locker rooms, pools, café, and childcare remain closed.
  • June 6th, 2020 – IDPH reports 18 residents (25% of all residents) at Miller Center have died from COVID-19 
  • June 12th, 2020 – IDPH adds 11 new positive cases to Miller Center, climbing from 63 reported cases the previous week, reporting 74 residents infected in Kankakee.
  • June 13th, 2020 – Riverside announces the Immediate Care branch at Meijer in Bradley will reopen on Sunday, June 14th.

We’ve reached out Saturday afternoon to the Illinois Department of Public Health to find out if any restrictions at all have been put in place by the State to prevent new admissions at facilities that have tested positive for COVID-19.

*Writers Note: Timeline presented is met to evaluate the real-world response dates locally to a global pandemic as a private organization. IDPH reporting numbers are current as of June 13th, 2020. Have a news tip? Email us at news@countryherald.com.

Shane Saathoff
Shane Saathoffhttp://www.SocialSnowball.com
An active writer for two decades, Shane's focuses on local news and events throughout the area, Shane is an active historian, science nerd, and tech geek. Shane is a native of Bourbonnais, IL, and alumni of Olivet Nazarene University.

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