Many states, including Illinois, are gradually beginning to ease their COVID-19 restrictions. Chicago is now allowing bars and breweries to open for outdoor service only. Nevertheless, the existential threat that COVID-19 presents is far from over, and scores of people continue to lose their lives to Coronavirus. This has been particularly acute amongst residents in long-term care facilities.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were a total of 20,550 cases and 3,433 deaths in long-term care facilities throughout Illinois as of June 12.[i] These cases and deaths, while concentrated in Chicago and Cook County, are dispersed throughout the state, affecting communities like Peoria, East St. Louis, and Springfield. As of June 13, the Four Fountains facility in St. Clair County had 104 cases and Edwardsville Care Center in Madison County had 94 cases.[ii] Chicago’s collar counties likewise continue to bear the brunt of the onslaught, with Lake, DuPage, Kane, and Will counties having a concentration of cases.[iii] According to earlier data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, nursing homes account for approximately 52% of all Coronavirus deaths in the state.[iv]
In recognition of these appalling statistics, a union representing nursing home workers recently organized a candlelight vigil outside the Thompson Center in Chicago, honoring the nursing home victims of COVID-19.[v] A union news release highlighted the need for holding nursing home owners and administrators accountable for their actions, saying “The appalling levels and scope of fatalities and illnesses among nursing home residents and workers continue to fuel demands for accountability on the Illinois nursing home industry as questions continue to rise about what dramatic steps the industry is taking to mitigate the pandemic and protect residents and staff.”[vi]
In their rush to stay profitable, many nursing home owners and administrators have neglected the safety of their staff. The news is rife with stories of low pay, inadequate personal protective equipment (“PPE”), and long, grueling shifts that push people beyond their limits. “Direct care workers are already living paycheck to paycheck. Now they are being asked to put their lives on the line for $13 an hour,” said a director of policy research for PHI, a research and consulting organization.[vii] Nursing home workers are nobly working to keep their residents alive while putting their own lives and their families’ lives at risk. Such people are deserving of whatever protections the law can afford.
To that end, the State of Illinois passed legislation affording front-line workers a “rebuttable presumption” that a COVID-19 diagnosis is work-related. However, a rebuttable presumption is not a guarantee that a case is going to win, and employers are likely to fight any claim that a case of COVID-19 is the result of workplace exposure.
The bottom line is that nursing home workers who become sick at work can fight back. Katz Friedman is currently representing many injured nursing home employees in work accident cases against their employers and will continue to investigate claims being made by nursing home workers whether it takes place from lifting, slipping, falling, or contracting COVID-19. When making decisions regarding a work injury sustained while working in a nursing home, it is wise to consult a workers’ compensation attorney to protect your interests because it is clear that the nursing home already has their lawyers working trying to defeat your claim. If you or someone you know works in health care and suffers from COVID-19, the attorneys and staff of Katz Friedman are here to help with obtaining proper compensation.