* Gov. Rauner told reporters this at a Quincy press conference today about the veterans home…
To be clear, there was absolutely no delay in doing what was critical, and that is keeping the veterans safe, treating them, evaluating the health of every veteran, every staff member, communicating with the vets and the staff and to any of their families to report any veteran who was showing any symptoms. That’s what was done. That was done day one.
* Let’s start with a family member…
“That’s what makes me sick. Do they think we’re all stupid? Here they are, not telling us for six days, and our family members are in there. We could’ve had a choice, people. We could have took our fathers and others out. We could have gotten them other help, and they have the audacity not to tell us for six days?”
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s own administration formally rebuked the state agency overseeing the Quincy veterans’ home for how it told staffers about the fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak after workers there got sick in 2015. […]
But the Aug. 22, 2015 mass email to Quincy workers — which Jeffries has pointed to as proof the home’s workforce was informed early about the outbreak — downplayed the severity of the epidemic and failed to alert staff that two Legionnaires’ cases had already been confirmed by that time.
The email, sent by an infectious disease nursing supervisor to nearly 140 staff members, emphasized with all capital letters that there had been “an UNCONFIRMED diagnosis” of Legionnaires’. The correspondence admonished workers not to talk about the case with residents because “the last thing we need is for the residents to get worried and upset.” […]
In fact, 19 hours before that first message went out to Quincy workers, top state health officials already knew that a 90-year-old man and an 89-year-old woman had tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, according to another email circulated to Public Health Director Nirav Shah and the former administrator of the Illinois Veterans Home. Shah would later acknowledge that by Aug. 21, 2015 — the day before the first note went out to Quincy’s front-line staff — the state knew it was dealing with “the beginning of an epidemic.”
* To the timeline…
July 24: Earliest known case of Legionnaires’ disease at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, according to a report issued later by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
August 21: Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Erica Jeffries later claims that on this date, her department “shut down the water, we removed aerators from all the showers, we shut down our fountains, we started issuing bottled water” because of the outbreak.
August 21: Public Health Director Nirav Shah acknowledges later that on this day the state knew it was dealing with “the beginning of an epidemic.”
August 21: Illinois Veterans’ Home resident Melvin Tucker develops a fever. He is given Tylenol.
August 22: (E)mail, sent by an infectious disease nursing supervisor to nearly 140 staff members, emphasized with all capital letters that there had been “an UNCONFIRMED diagnosis” of Legionnaires’. The correspondence admonished workers not to talk about the case with residents because “the last thing we need is for the residents to get worried and upset.”
August 23: Illinois Department of Public Health notifies CDC of “five laboratory-confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease among residents and staff.”
August 24: Adams County Health Department Director of Clinical and Environmental Services Shay Drummond claims this is the date when “environmental control and mediation” actually starts
August 24: In an email, a state Veterans’ Affairs spokesman alerted the governor’s press staff about the Legionnaires’ test results, saying, “We have a situation at the Quincy home.” The spokesman went on to say he did not intend to publicize details of the test results that day unless “directed or in the case of wide media interest.”
August 25: Rauner does media event with Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries at Springfield airport. No public mention of Quincy.
Aug. 25: Rauner’s press secretary at the time, Lindsay Walters, directed press aides in the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and Illinois Department of Public Health not to issue a public statement about the growing Legionnaires’ threat at the home, documents show. “I do not think we need to issue a statement to the media. Let’s hold and see if we receive any reporter inquiries,” she said.
Aug. 26: There are now 28 Legionnaires’ disease onsets, the CDC reports later.
August 26: Three days after CDC was first notified of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, and 2-4 days after remediation efforts began, Gerald Kuhn, 90, is given Tylenol for a fever that reaches 104 degrees. Kuhn asks to go to the hospital and tests positive there for Legionella.
The veterans’ home didn’t test Gerald Kuhn. He had to ask to go to the hospital to be tested. So much for “evaluating the health” of all the veterans.
August 26: Last day Dolores French is seen alive. Her military veteran husband lives in another section of the complex.
August 27: “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced eight confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home - Quincy. There have been no known deaths related to this outbreak.”
August 27: After six days with a fever, Melvin Tucker is still not on any kind of antibiotic and hasn’t yet been tested for Legionnaires’, despite the CDC being notified four days earlier of an outbreak and the state announcing eight confirmed cases that same day.
So, Mr. Tucker still wasn’t on any medication six days into the breakout even though he was showing clear signs of danger. He wasn’t being protected. He was being ignored.
* Back to the timeline for the disheartening conclusion…
August 28: “Two residents of an Illinois veterans home have died of Legionnaires’ disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday…. [both] had underlying medical conditions. Both were among 23 residents of the facility who had earlier been diagnosed with the disease.”
August 29: Dolores French is found dead and her body was decomposed. Her only underlying medical condition was deafness.
August 30: IDPH formally requests Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aid) from the CDC.
August 31: Melvin Tucker and Gerald Kuhn die, bringing the death total to four.
August 31: Three CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers and one environmental health specialist arrive at the veterans’ home.
September 1: “The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced the deaths of a total of seven residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home-Quincy. The seven residents, all of whom had underlying medical conditions, were among the 39 individuals who had been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease to date.” [Dolores French’s only underlying medical condition was deafness.]
September 1: E-mail to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah: I received a voice message from Ann Irving with AFSCME asking about the remediation plan at Quincy vets home. She would like to know at what point we can say the systems that present the greatest risk of spreading Legionella bacteria have been cleaned. When can we say that any additional cases are due to the 2 week incubation period and not due to current exposure?
September 2: E-mail from IDPH spokesperson to administrative group: Can you help me? Let them know I’m not the one who should be responding. I fight enough with the media. I don’t went to fight with the union too.
September 2: E-mail from Director Nirav Shah: I think we should refer them to the Gov Office. There are several other sensitivities here. Or as Craig suggests, to DOL. I agree that weighing in here is not our job.
September 9: Adams County health officials report 2 more deaths.
September 14: Another resident dies, bringing the death toll to 12 out of 54 who have by now contracted the disease.
No matter how many times I read that timeline, my blood still boils. And the constant lies just make it worse.