‘I Don’t See This as a Job’: Group Home Manager Quarantines with Residents After COVID-19 Diagnoses

April 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many of us with challenging decisions, from managing our groceries to caring for vulnerable family members.  

Linda Smith made a choice many of us would find hard to imagine. She runs a group home for people with intellectual disabilities. When she and several of her residents tested positive for COVID-19, she took the extraordinary step of choosing to quarantine with them. 

Smith has managed the Herbst House for 20 years. It’s part of Avenues to Independence, a nonprofit in northwest suburban Park Ridge that provides housing to 54 people in 17 group homes.  

When an asymptomatic staff member of Herbst House tested positive for COVID-19, tests revealed that six residents and five staff members of Herbst had already contracted the virus. All the infected staff were sent home to quarantine and monitor their symptoms. But then, Avenues to Independence administrators were presented with their own tough choice, one faced these days by many institutions: Who takes care of the infected residents? Sending in healthy staff risks not only their own health but potentially that of their families and communities.