Coronavirus Update: Health Department Expands COVID-19 Testing in Long-Term Care Facilities

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For Immediate Release
Date: June 12, 2020
News/Media Email:
Media Phone: 847-377-2001
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Lake County Health Department Expands COVID-19 Testing
in Long-Term Care Facilities

Initiative aims to prevent new infections, save lives

Lake County, Ill. — The Lake County Health Department is now facilitating Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) testing for residents and staff of long-term care facilities throughout the county. The initiative launched June 1, 2020, and aims to identify active COVID-19 infections, prevent further transmission of the virus, and collect baseline data to inform ongoing testing plans.

Results from the first two facilities to participate identified three asymptomatic staff members carrying the virus, who were promptly sent home to self-isolate. These initial results demonstrate the importance of proactive testing in congregate settings.

“We have been working very hard to bring testing to long-term care facilities in Lake County to help protect their residents and staff,” said Mark Pfister, Executive Director at the Health Department. “These facilities serve a population at high risk of severe illness. By proactively testing and contact tracing, we can prevent the transmission of this virus and save lives.”

In May, the Health Department developed its testing program in collaboration with a private laboratory that is supplying test kits and processing the specimens. Once a long-term care facility starts testing residents and staff, they must return specimens to the Health Department within 48 hours. A courier then delivers the specimens to the lab the same day, and the lab provides results in approximately 48 hours. If any positive tests are found, the Health Department notifies the facility immediately.

The program is designed to complement State testing efforts and to help facilities establish their baseline data for the development of long-term testing plans now required by the State. Facilities with current outbreaks that have not yet tested all residents and staff are being prioritized. Facilities may also choose not to participate, since they may already be testing in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) or with their own contracted labs.

Since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lake County, the Health Department has worked closely with long-term care facilities in the county to help prevent COVID-19 infections. Facilities with no cases have dedicated Health Department liaisons who provide guidance and support.

Any facility with a positive COVID-19 case is paired with a Health Department Communicable Disease investigator, who provides daily support, helps with contact tracing, assists in monitoring residents and staff for symptoms, and advises the facility on mitigation actions to prevent further spread of the virus.

The Health Department has also distributed over 824,000 items of personal protective equipment (PPE) to long-term care facilities. The Health Department will receive a final shipment from the state stockpile and distribute it next week. After this point, the facilities have been asked to utilize established supply chains to purchase supplies.

“This pandemic continues to be a very challenging situation for long-term care staff,” said Dr. Suzanne Kellman, who currently leads the Health Department’s long-term care support team. “While they are working hard and doing their best to protect their residents, this virus spreads very easily. It seems to find any vulnerability that exists, and caregivers are often in very close contact with the residents, providing services like feeding, bathing, and providing wound care. An asymptomatic staff could pass the virus to a resident, or an asymptomatic resident could just as easily pass the virus to the staff, who then can spread it to others.”

There are 105 long-term care facilities in Lake County. As of June 11, 57 facilities in the county have two or more cases of COVID-19, with a cumulative total of 1,669 cases and 234 deaths. Eight of these facilities have now gone with no active infections for at least 28 days.

“To those wanting to move on and resume their normal lives, please consider the people who are most at-risk in our communities. Every week I answer calls from family members of long-term care residents who are scared for their loved ones’ lives.” said Kellman. “This pandemic is not over, and we all need to do our part and continue to follow public health guidelines. For some, this is a matter of life or death.”


Additional Information:

The Health Department reported Lake County’s first COVID-19 case on March 11, 2020. As of June 11, 2020, 8,962 Lake County residents have tested positive for the disease, including 340 deaths. For more details, please visit the Coronavirus Data Hub, which is updated daily Mondays through Fridays.

Visit the Health Department’s Coronavirus web page,, for updates, testing information, community guidance and resources, answers to frequently asked questions, and to sign up for the Health Department’s weekly COVID-19 newsletter. General questions can be sent via email to

IDPH reports long-term care facility outbreaks weekly on its website,

For trusted information on the COVID-19 pandemic from reputable state and federal sources, visit the State of Illinois, Illinois Department of Public Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites.

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Lake County Health Department
3010 Grand Avenue
Waukegan, Illinois 60085
(847) 377-8000