19 patients infected in COVID-19 outbreak at Illinois VA hospital

At least 18 patients at Chicago-based Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19 after a sick staff member worked for several days, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Nov. 30. 

One of those patients has died, according to the Sun-Times.

Sarah Unterman, MD, physician and chief of staff at the hospital, said the situation was "horrific and disturbing" in an internal memo sent to staff last week and obtained by the Sun-Times.

"We have committed very real harm to a large number of patients this week," the memo reads. "All of these patients are vaccinated, and yet when a sick staff member came to work several days in a row, they exposed many patients to COVID who were here for other reasons."

Dr. Unterman declined the Sun-Times' request for comment, referring all questions to a communications team. On Nov. 30, a hospital spokesperson confirmed the memo was sent to staff.

"We did this. And we all need to take responsibility," Dr. Unterman wrote, as cited by the Sun-Times. "We absolutely must do and be better for the sake of our patients and our staff."

Dr. Unterman urged workers to wear a mask, but said she had walked through the facility and "found literally dozens of people (patients, staff, visitors) who either were not wearing a mask at all" or weren't wearing it properly, according to the Sun-Times.

In response to the outbreak, the 220-bed hospital has now implemented visitor restrictions at its main campus, only allowing inpatient visitors for "end-of-life hospitalizations."

Dr. Unterman also mandated all staff members wear N95 masks and eye protection whenever entering patient rooms in certain areas. Additionally, all inpatients now must wear hospital-issued masks when staff or visitors enter their rooms or are being transported in the hospital.

"Our hope is that this will not occur again and that these measures will lead to the prevention of COVID-19 in the future for the health and safety of veterans, their families, caregivers and our staff," the hospital spokesperson told the Sun-Times.

Despite multiple attempts, Becker's was unable to contact the hospital for comment.


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