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Chicago’s Largest Migrant Shelter in Quarantine After Measles Case: ‘We Are Worried’

By March 8, 2024March 15th, 2024Health

The case comes just months after a boy died of sepsis amid health concerns at the city-run shelter.

Mauricio Peña/Borderless Magazine
Migrants living in Chicago’s largest shelter, located in the Pilsen industrial corridor, are being quarantined after a reported measles case.
By March 8, 2024March 15th, 2024Health

The case comes just months after a boy died of sepsis amid health concerns at the city-run shelter.

Just months after a five-year-old boy from Chicago’s largest migrant shelter fell sick and died, the city is quarantining residents after a young child contracted measles.

Chicago’s Department of Public Health has asked migrant residents to shelter in place for ten days until city officials can determine whether they have been vaccinated against measles, according to a department statement. 

More than 2,000 migrants were living at the shelter as of March 1, according to city data.

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“The case of measles was identified in a young child who has recovered and is no longer infectious,” reads the statement. “A case investigation is underway to ensure those they may have come in contact with while infectious are informed and vaccinated.”

Migrants who spoke to Borderless Magazine said they were woken up around 1 a.m. on Friday morning and told about the case of measles, but said city and shelter staff didn’t provide more details about where in the shelter the child lived.

“The only thing they tell us is that it’s the measles and that we can’t leave” for ten days, one woman told Borderless Friday morning.

Another migrant said staff were preventing people from leaving the shelter for work. They also noted that children at the shelter could not leave to go to school. “If you leave, they won’t let you come back in,” one woman said.

Since opening last fall, the industrial warehouse turned emergency shelter inside the Pilsen industrial corridor has been mired in controversy. In a Borderless investigation in December, migrants detailed harsh living conditions, including unsanitary conditions, poor treatment from staff, spoiled and raw food and rampant illness spreading inside the shelter just days before a young boy died. 

A recent Borderless investigation detailed how city officials ignored early warnings, including emails, dozens of hospitalizations and formal grievance reports before the boy’s death. Despite some changes at the shelter, migrants said conditions inside remain largely the same. 

The shelter measles case and another case in a Chicago resident reported on Thursday are the first measles cases confirmed in Chicago since 2019. Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can be dangerous for unvaccinated people, especially babies and young children, according to the city health department.

Symptoms of measles include a rash, high fever, cough, and watery eyes. It can take seven to 21 days for symptoms to appear after a person is exposed, according to the health department.

Dr. Nicholas Cozzi of RUSH University Medical Center told ABC7 that “measles is airborne” and can be suspended in the air for several hours, even days.

Chicago Public Schools notified parents of students in a letter Friday that a young, non-school-age child at a shelter was diagnosed with measles.CDPH has advised all families residing at the shelter to remain in place and that no school-age resident at that shelter should attend school tomorrow, Friday, March 8,” the letter reads. 

Chicago Public Schools have advised school leaders not to allow children living at the Pilsen shelter to participate in school activities on Friday.  

In December, amid complaints of rampant chicken pox and other respiratory infections, Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero died after falling ill. He died of sepsis from Group A Strep. COVID-19, Adenovirus, and the common cold were contributing factors to his death, according to the autopsy report.

In a statement, the city said CDPH, the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) and other city agencies would establish a process to assess “the vaccination status of all shelter residents early Friday, March 8.”

The city has previously stated migrants are offered vaccinations upon arrival at migrant shelters. 

City officials said DFSS was increasing meal services for migrants at the shelter, and CDPH would provide additional masks and other personal protective equipment for residents and staff.    

Inside the shelter, migrants said they were confused because they had received little detailed information. In a video taken inside the shelter Friday morning, which was sent to Borderless, several dozen migrants can be seen crammed in a room. Only one person can be seen wearing a mask.

“We are worried, we don’t know what’s going on,” one migrant woman told Borderless Magazine.

“There was chickenpox, and nothing was done about it,” another woman told Borderless Friday morning. “There was COVID here, and nothing was done about that either.”

 Katrina Pham and Nissa Rhee contributed reporting.