July 4, 2020
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CHICAGO — More than half of all COVID-19 deaths in Illinois have been residents of nursing homes. On Thursday, they were remembered at a candlelight vigil in Chicago along with the nursing home employees who have also contracted the virus.

Nursing home workers put out more than 3,400 tea lights for the vigil, each one in memory of a nursing home resident who died from COVID-19.

Some nursing home workers shared some of their stories and experiences over the last three months on the job. Many said they still need more testing, more PPE, and for nursing home owners to hire more staff.

Thursday was a day of action in more than two dozen states, kicking off a national campaign, some calling for an end to legal protections for nursing home owners.

The workers are also calling for expanded paid sick leave. The union members at the vigil Thursday represent a number of nursing homes including Lakeshore and Bridgeview Health Care. They say this pandemic has been incredibly stressful on them.

Shaba Andrich, SEIU vice president of the nursing home division, said their members are used to dealing with death, but not used to dealing with mass death as seen during the pandemic.

Some of thee employees who spoke at the vigil talked about another big concern: management pressuring workers to come in when they had been sick, and even tested positive.