CHICAGO — A treatment facility is the center of an outbreak of COVID-19 and employees at Haymarket Center in Chicago’s West Loop say their concerns are being swept under the rug. Public health officials will tell you that close living quarters, whether it be a nursing home, homeless shelter, or other group living situation is possibly the most worrisome scenario in this pandemic. Case in point, one of the largest non-profit substance abuse treatment facilities in the Midwest. Haymarket Center in Chicago’s West Loop has served as a haven for mental health and substance abuse treatment for 45 years. It’s also the center of a COVID-19 outbreak that some employees say is being kept under wraps by administrators. WGN has disguised the identities of the employees who spoke on camera. “Right now, I’m concerned not only about the health and safety of clients who are living and being treated at Haymarket right now, but of staff members who are being made to report to work when they do not feel that they need to be,” one employee said. They say all employees, even those who work off-site were told that they were deemed essential and needed to report to the main center on West Washington. A March 17 email offered a bonus $300 dollars per pay period if employees didn’t call off sick to ensure staffing levels. “Social services providers and social workers across the nation $300 per pay period bonus is substantial and I think Haymarket knows that and they’re taking advantage of that fact. To incentivize people to come to work when they’re feeling under the weather or feeling unsafe in their work environment,” the employee said. Haymarket’s president and CEO, Dan Lustig, told WGN that the bonus was to pay for child care and transportation. They said Haymarket’s been recognized by the Illinois Department of Public Health for its response. Haymarkets’ public relations firm said 12 employees and 29 clients have tested positive for COVID-19. Two clients had to go to the hospital with more serious symptoms and have recovered. Two employees, WGN learned, have also died — only one of which, they say, reported to work after being exposed. In a staff email obtained by WGN dated April 4, Lustig wrote, “We learned that 29 patients and three employees in that program have tested positive for covid-19. While only one of our patients is displaying symptoms, those who have been diagnosed will be closely monitored by our medical staff and they are isolating together on the third floor to prevent exposure to other clients and staff. The employees who have coronavirus are quarantined at home.” The employees who spoke to WGN said say they don’t feel safe nor good about how the situation is being handled. “I love my job. I love the work that I do but I’m scared to do it. And I’m scared that I may be part of something right now that may be hurting other people and that’s scary on […]

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