COVID outbreak prompts state to open alternate housing in Southern Illinois

Chronicle Media

The Jefferson County Health Department in Mt. Vernon. The county worked with the state on development an alternate housing plan for patients testing positive with coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of Jefferson County Health Dept.)

At the request of the local government, the state of Illinois has activated a pre-staged alternate housing facility in Jefferson County to meet the identified needs of COVID-19.

Jefferson County authorities have indicated a recent spike in positive cases of COVID-19, including more than 17-cases linked to a long-term care facility, will require additional resources to help slow the spread of the virus.

The purpose of an alternate housing facility is to provide a place where people can go to safely isolate or quarantine to not expose others in their home.

These facilities will allow individuals to remain close to home, near family and his/her healthcare provider of record, but the facilities are not designed to provide medical care for individuals.

“We are grateful to have an alternative housing option for Jefferson County,” said Amy Harrison, Jefferson County Health Department Administrator. “Occasionally when we as the County Health Department place someone under an isolation or quarantine order, it is difficult for that individual to maintain due to the setup of their home or they may have a family member that is vulnerable due to an underlying health condition. This would be a perfect option for either of those situations.”

“The State of Illinois has identified thousands of additional rooms in northern, central and southern Illinois that can be activated once local jurisdictions exhaust the resources they have on hand to meet the needs of their community,” said Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “This concept is truly a collaborative effort between state and local governments to ensure we have all the tools and resources necessary to help our residents, and effectively slow the spread of this deadly virus.”

The local health department is the responsible party for referring individuals to an alternate housing facility. The local health department will screen each individual prior to entry to determine health status and eligibility, monitor the individual throughout the stay, and will determine when an individual can safely return home.

State and local collaboration is key for a successful mitigation of the virus. Additional services are provided at the local level to limit the transmission of the virus.

Cleaning services, security detail, facility management, food services are among the items needed to ensure the facility runs safely for all those involved.

An alternate housing facility is really an extension of a person’s home. Public health experts agree, staying at home and limiting your exposures to others, is the best way to slow the spread of this virus.

Additionally, it is recommended that you wash your hands frequently, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, and maintaining at least a six feet distance from others.

For health questions about COVID-19, call the IDPH hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email