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CNAs Taylor Flowers, left, and Kayla Summann, prepare to leave Effingham Tuesday to head to Chicago for eight weeks to help treat COVID-19 patients.

Two local Certified Nursing Assistants are heading to the front lines of Illinois’ fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taylor Flowers of Mason and Kayla Summann of Altamont, both 23, will spend eight weeks in Chicago helping hospitals and medical facilities care for COVID-19 patients.

Cook County has amassed the state’s greatest number of cases and deaths, with 5,152 cases and 95 deaths reported by Wednesday. Chicago alone accounted for 3,087 cases and 39 deaths as of Wednesday.

Flowers and Summann answered a request from a Chicago-based health care company to send workers to the northern part of the state to aid with the unprecedented influx of patients due to the virus. State officials on Tuesday even sent an alert to mobile devices seeking medically trained individuals to fight the spread of the virus.

Flowers described her decision to fight the virus on the front lines as a calling.

“And we haven’t looked back,” Flowers said.

“I wanted to make a difference and be part of something good for the community; also, it will help build experience for nursing school,” Summann added.

The CNAs said they will mainly be working with patients who are suffering from acute respiratory infection because of COVID-19. Summann said she hopes she and Flowers can help ensure more patients are taken care of because helping others is the duo’s main goal.

Neither Summann nor Flowers have had experience outside of working in geriatric care in nursing homes. Flowers has been a CNA for six years, and Summann has been one for five years.

The two will be staying in a hotel for the nearly two months they will work in Chicago, paid for by the company. They will be working 12-hour night shifts.

Flowers and Summann departed Effingham County on Tuesday, but not without saying their goodbyes to loved ones. Summann and Flowers agreed that it was hard to leave their families, but their loved ones have been nothing but supportive of their new venture.

“My family was super encouraging. My boyfriend, Kevin, was my ultimate supporter and pushed me to go,” Flowers said.

Summann’s children and fiancé understood her desire to join health care workers in Chicago. She said her family agreed that it was the best move for her career, and though they are worried for her safety and health, Summann said her family shared words of encouragement.

The CNAs say helping others is at the core of their initial decision to become CNAs, as well as choosing to aid Chicago medical workers. Flowers said going to care for COVID-19 patients was what the two were meant to do in the time of the pandemic.

“We both felt that we were being pulled in this direction, like we were meant to be coming here,” Flowers said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois continue to rise, with new cases being reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health every day. Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently extended the shelter-in-place order through April 30, nixing the previous end date of April 7.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

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