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Homes for developmentally disabled have become coronavirus ‘hot spots’ in south suburbs

The coronavirus has rocked the Elisabeth Ludeman Center in Park Forest, causing more than 50 infections and two deaths on the 60-acre campus.

Elisabeth Ludeman Center’s 60-acre campus in Park Forest.
Elisabeth Ludeman Center’s 60-acre campus in Park Forest.
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Two people have died and more than 139 have tested positive for the coronavirus at two state-run facilities for adults with severe disabilities that have become virus ‘hot spots’ south of Chicago.

At the Elisabeth Ludeman Center in Park Forest, and 18 staffers and 44 residents have been infected, Illinois Department of Human Services spokeswoman Meghan Powers said Friday.

The two deaths, both at that home; were men, ages 50 and 67, Park Forest Mayor Jonathan Vanderbilt said Friday.

About 30 miles to the south, at the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee, 21 staff members and 56 residents also have tested positive, Powers said.

The Ludeman Center’s 60-acre campus has 40 group homes, 353 residents and 879 staff members. Four of the group homes are quarantined due to exposure. The rest are self-isolating out of caution, Vanderbilt said.

Ludeman is the second-largest developmental center in the state. Shapiro is the largest, with 478 residents and 1,195 staff members.

Shapiro is in the district of State Sen. Patrick Joyce and he said quarantine and isolation measures are also in place at Shapiro.

“Shapiro will be getting rapid coronavirus tests in the next week that will offer results within minutes,” Joyce said.

Vanderbilt and Joyce said both facilities need donations of personal protective gear.

Ludeman is most in need of disposable stethoscopes, disposable blood pressure cuffs and disposable gowns. Vanderbilt said he reached out to the Cubs and White Sox asking for the teams’ rain ponchos, which could double as protective gowns for staff at the facility.

“The staff is desperate for this protective gear,” Vanderbilt said. “Many of the residents have underlying health issues, and the number of infections at the facility is expected to rise. That’s the scary part.”

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to: Ludeman Center Building, #2 Storeroom, 114 N. Orchard Drive, Park Forest, IL 60466.

Others seeking to help can call the center at (708) 283-3000, ext. 3, Vanderbilt said.

The nonprofit group Parents & Friends of the Ludeman Center has a website — ludemanpflc.org — that also has information on donating.

Donations for the Shapiro Center can be dropped off or sent to the Kankakee County Sheriff’s office at 3000 S. Justice Way, Kankakee, IL, 60901, Joyce said.

About half of the Park Forest’s 120 confirmed cases are at Ludeman, Vanderbilt said. About 22,000 people live in Park Forest.

Supervisors at each facility couldn’t be reached for comment.