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More sick migrants, worries about conditions at Chicago shelter where a 5-year-old died

Serious concerns about health conditions in Pilsen migrant shelter
Serious concerns about health conditions in Pilsen migrant shelter 02:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Numerous questions remained Tuesday night about a 5-year-old boy who died in a Pilsen migrant shelter – with the city now saying he did not have chickenpox or any other virus.

The boy, Jean Carlos Martinez Rivero, is one of several people – mostly children – taken to the hospital from that shelter.

On Tuesday night, CBS 2's Marybel González had an exclusive look at the conditions inside the shelter.

From the outside, the shelter space at 2241 S. Halsted St. appears to be large. But residents said the people inside are on cots in close proximity – a concern as many adults and kids are sick.

The Chicago Department of Public Health started raising flags about chickenpox cases in migrant shelters on Dec. 4. But the city said late Tuesday that there was no indication of an outbreak at the Halsted Street shelter.

New video sent to CBS 2 gave a look into what the migrant shelter looks like on the inside. The images appear to show a leaking roof, and children coughing on cots in tight quarters.

Someone in the video is heard saying in Spanish that one child had had a fever for days.

The conditions were disturbing to some, like one migrant woman we spoke to who has been sheltering in the Pilsen facility – and did not want to show her face for fear of retaliation. She said there were several people there as of Tuesday with colds and fevers – including children and adults.

Her concerns were amplified after 5-year-old Jean Carlos' death – even though the city said he did not appear to have died from an infectious disease.

More sick migrants at Chicago shelter where a 5-year-old died 03:00

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said migrants are coming to Chicago sick. Volunteers said that's not the point.

"The people who were coming out were notably unwell – a lot of coughing, a lot of with kind of boogery green stuff in their eyes, a lot of running noses, people visibly shaken and underdressed," said Britt Hodgdon has been helping migrants for months at police stations and now at the Halsted shelter.

Hodgdon assists migrants outside, in the cold, because she said she and other volunteers have been denied access.

"We cannot approach the shelter," Hodgdon told CBS 2's Sabrina Franza. "Favorite Staffing has some rules, and have threatened arrest numerous times at numerous shelters."

Favorite Healthcare Staffing is a healthcare staffing firm. City data shows it's been paid $94 million in the past year to help with the crisis.

"People are still kind of living open-air, if you will, in a shared space in the shelter," Hodgdon said. "No isolation."

A memo obtained by CBS 2 shows the Chicago Department of Public Health flagging varicella, chicken pox cases, inside shelters for new arrivals.

Meanwhile, Hodgdon said Jean Carlos was very ill before he died.

"He had a very high fever over 40 centigrade, so that would be at least 104," Hodgdon said.

He had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance while a few blocks away is the Alivio Medical Center, ready to receive and help migrants, CBS 2 was told no one knew about them.

"We know where to find migrants. We know the stations. We know shelters," Hodgdon said. "You could do mass vaccination and mass treatment – and we're just not experiencing that."

CBS 2 asked the city about its protocol. It said that anyone with acute medical needs should be taken to the nearest emergency room.

The city said CDPH is on-site weekly that many migrants receive catch-up vaccinations but during scheduled appointments and that it is investigating to see if any changes need to be made.

Meanwhile in Gage Park Tuesday night, a community meeting was held about the shelter at the field house there – which has been open for six months now and houses about 400 people.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) is pushing for the shelter to phase out.

"I think it's time that we start really giving Gage Park fieldhouse back to the community's possession so the residents can have full access to it again," Lopez said.

Lopez also responded to the allegations of the conditions inside the shelter in Pilsen, and the death of Jean Carlos – who the alderman said went to school in his ward.

"This is not how Chicago should be answering in this moment," said Lopez. "We can do better."

The Chicago City Council Latino Caucus also spoke out about the migrant child's death at the shelter. They are requesting a thorough report on the incident, and a plan on how migrants will be provided medical attention at all times.

The city released this statement about Jean Carlos' death and migrant health concerns:

<blockquote>"An investigation is ongoing and any changes to safety protocols for staff will be made based on the findings. Currently, physical health protocol in an emergency (i.e. chest pain, difficulty breathing, decreased responsiveness, confusion, unstoppable bleeding, severe pain, blue or unexplained pale skin), shelter staff are directed to call 9-1-1 and report any medical emergencies in line with the Critical Incident Reporting protocol. Shelter staff may also refer people to Cook County Health, FQHCs, Shelter Base Care (LCOs) for non-urgent care.  

"According to data collected from the City's landing zone, the Martinez Rivero family arrived in Chicago on November 30, and on that same day, underwent intake at the shelter at 2241 S. Halsted. According to the incident report, on December 17, the Martinez family left the shelter for part of the morning and early afternoon, returning at 2:32 p.m. Approximately 13 minutes later, shelter staff witnessed a medical emergency and immediately responded by calling 911, after which staff began administering first aid to the child.    

"Shelter staff performed chest compressions while waiting for emergency responders to arrive. Chicago firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and immediately transported the child to Comer Children's Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. 

"This incident is not related to the three children taken to the hospital on Monday, Dec. 18. The child does not appear to have died from an infectious disease, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health, and there is no evidence of an outbreak at the shelter.  

"The CDPH team will continue to evaluate the situation. The cause of death is still being investigated."

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