Apartment residents want to be notified of COVID-19 cases

Coronavirus Watch Illinois

MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. (WEHT)– A retired EMS medic is calling on health departments for increased transparency. COVID-19 outbreaks took a severe, and even deadly, turn for some nursing homes. What about the elderly and those with compromised immune systems living in government subsidized housing? One man tells Eyewitness News he and some of his neighbor wants to be alerted to any new cases.

“We are not asking for the people to be identified. We are just asking merely for the right to know that there have been positive cases associated with this building so we can take extra precautions if we need to,” said retired EMS medic, Darrell Smith. He is asking to be alerted when someone in his apartment building tests positive for COVID-19. “I myself am at risk, high risk. The biggest majority of the people in this building are at high risk health wise.”

Smith lives at Tower Heights, an affordable housing unit funded by the S.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He took his concerns to Mount Carmel’s City Hall.

“The big picture of it all is everybody wants to stay healthy and a lot of the people living in the high rise apartment house are elderly or have health issues,” said Mount Carmel Mayor Joe Judge. He said he reached out to the board of directors over the federally owned apartment.

Mayor Judge said even though people are most likely to catch the virus when speaking face to face with someone who’s infected, this is still concerning for those with a compromised immune system.

“With the way the heating and air is it can be quite a concern for somebody living there that if their neighbor tests positive for COVID that they would worry about it,” Judge explained.

The apartment’s management recently left Smith a letter on his front door explaining how alerting apartment complex residents would be in violation of health privacy laws. Smith said this doesn’t add up if they are able to alert businesses and schools of new confirmed cases.

“We all know that that there’s people that even if the health department and the proper authorities tell them to quarantine, they are going to do anything they want anyway. We see it all the time,” explained Smith. He said he will continue to ask community leaders about alerting apartment residents of new COVID-19 cases so his neighbors are able to know when they need to be extra cautious.

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(This story was originally published on Sept. 10, 2020)

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