* I got the ol’ pontoon out of winter storage this week and my lake club’s bar is open this weekend, so I hope the motor actually runs (last year was kind of a nightmare in that regard) and the weather stays nice…
* I told subscribers earlier this week that this idea looked like the most viable option out there. We’ll see…
Illinois Senate President Don Harmon announced Friday he has asked colleagues to negotiate compromise legislation to transition Chicago Public Schools to a fully elected school board.
Here is President Harmon’s statement:
“I am fully committed to passing legislation this year to move to an elected, representative Chicago school board.
In order to set this in motion, I have asked the sponsors of the key proposals to sit down and come up with a plan that will guide this transition to a new era of leadership at Chicago Public Schools.
My recommendation is that these negotiations focus on starting with a fair, representative hybrid board composed of elected and appointed members that would ensure a reasonable and orderly transition to a fully elected school board.
Everyone involved in this issue has the best interests of the students, families, teachers and taxpayers at heart. If all are willing to compromise, I am confident that we are close to resolution.
I look forward to putting a plan to get us to a fully elected school board on the governor’s desk this session.”
However, Harmon wouldn’t say what he would do if the two sides were unable to work out a compromise. But the House has already passed a bill that calls for a fully elected 21-member board, and Harmon did say, “If the only option were the proposal or nothing, the Senate might very well pass it.”
“I just want to be sure that we are not fighting over which side is right, but we are remembering that we have a fundamental obligation primarily to the students in the Chicago Public Schools system to get the process right,” Harmon said. “And so I would like to see some structure come out of these negotiations that ensures a reasonable and orderly transition to a fully elected school board.”
When Harmon talked to sides supporting either the hybrid bill or the fully elected bill on Friday, he said they were both “very committed to their positions.”
Officials at the Illinois Department of Public Health said the agency is working on a program that would allow residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19 to show an electronic certification from the state.
“Vaccinated individuals may want to be able to prove they have been vaccinated, especially if they misplace their CDC vaccination card,” IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. “IDPH is working to provide this service to individuals.”
* The Question: Will you get one of these certifications when it’s made available? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…
* I do not think this Sun-Times editorial segment is true…
Unlike CEJA, which is designed to speed Illinois toward a clean energy future without raising customers’ electric bills
Numbers I’ve seen have CEJA increasing costs by $156-$450 million a year. If you look at the bill, the base year shifts from 2007 to 2009. The rate cap then increases from 2.015 percent to 2.67% during the first couple of years and then increases to 4.88 percent by the end of 2023.
* This bill passed with an overwhelming bipartisan margin…
A bill distributing $1.4 billion of federal relief to those in need of COVID-19 emergency housing assistance was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk on Thursday over Republican objections that the measure does not target those who are in real need of help.
“This bill essentially is trying to keep people in the state of Illinois in their homes,” said state Sen. Omar Aquino, the bill’s sponsor. “It tries to prioritize and surgically utilize the one-time money that we’re getting from the federal government to assist those people that truly need it the most.”
The bill “prioritizes disproportionately affected areas” based on “positive COVID-19 cases” or by “a history of homelessness,” according to the Near Northwest Side Democrat.
But state Sen. Jason Barickman said the money does not go to those who need it the most because it prioritizes “not based on their individual circumstances but based on the ZIP code in which they live.”
Several state representatives introduced bills this year to move Illinois to permanent daylight saving time or standard time. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, and David Welter, R-Morris, have bills to move Illinois to standard time all year — the current winter time. State Reps. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, and Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, have filed bills to make daylight saving time all year — the current summer time.
* Gov. JB Pritzker was asked today why he picked then-Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia to be his Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director. The IG report on the 36 LaSalle Veterans’ Home COVID-19 deaths claimed she “abdicated” her responsibilities to her chief of staff. Pritzker’s response…
You have to remember that she led the investigation that happened with the incident that happened at the Quincy Veterans’ Home a few years ago. And so she seemed like an ideal person to be able to root out the problems in our veterans’ homes. But I have to admit that if I knew then what I know now I would not have hired her.
There’s a lot more to running a crucial state agency than rooting out problems and Pritzker, who has extensive management experience himself, should’ve known better.
* What he needed to do in the wake of Quincy was hire someone with strong experience in health care management, which is what he finally did this year. From a press release…
On April 1, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker appointed Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran with deep experience in military and veterans’ medical care, to serve as Acting IDVA Director. Prior to this role, Acting Director Prince was Superintendent of the Ohio Veterans Homes and Command Master Chief at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The new Acting Director is focused on increased visibility and communication for department leadership, improved organizational structure and staff training, and hiring for several new and vacant roles for the agency.
“There is nothing more critical to our department’s mission than ensuring the heroes in our homes are safe and receive the quality care they deserve,” said Acting IDVA Director Terry Prince. “As the acting director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and as a Navy Veteran of more than 30 years, my heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 in our Veterans’ Homes. In my prior role, I led the Ohio Veterans’ Homes and saw firsthand the enormous challenges this pandemic unleashed on the state facilities that care for our heroes. Lessons learned there and here in Illinois from this unprecedented crisis are already being implemented as we work to make IDVA the department that our veterans deserve. Let me be clear, we will seize any and every opportunity to better ensure the safety of veterans in our care and every single corrective action outlined in this report will be implemented with urgency.”
People like Prince don’t grow on trees, but Pritzker was so far out of the ballpark with Chapa LaVia that his decision to bring her on certainly contributed to the chaos at the LaSalle home.
“We need to train as if it’s always happening,” said Prince, who arrived in Illinois on April 1 from his post as superintendent of the Ohio Veterans Homes, where he administered three facilities. “When there is an absence of the virus we train even harder, so that when something does come to fruition, our people know exactly what to do and how to do it.” […]
Among Prince’s other initiatives are plans to develop clear, statewide policies applicable to each home; restructuring senior leadership with chain-of-command clarity and assurances that the homes are receiving proper clinical and administrative direction; filling key positions whose vacancies have doubled work for others; and providing all employees with an email address for receiving agency-wide notices and communicating their concerns.
Infection control will be a priority with the hiring of a director and creation infection-control committees at each home following standardized guidelines, Prince said.
“It’s always been important but it did come to light, over the course of this crisis, the significant amount of work that’s involved in being an infection control specialist,” Prince said. “Prior to COVID-19 you would deal with things like pneumonia, flu, MRSA … they were often a case-by-case basis. When COVID hit, you’re not only monitoring residents you’re monitoring every staff member who works there.”
As subscribers know, I spent some time talking with Prince yesterday and his experience and knowledge is darned impressive.
Also, still unknown is what the deputy governor in charge of that agency was up to during the outbreak.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 3,207 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 33 additional deaths.
- Christian County: 1 female 80s
- Cook County: 1 male 40s, 1 female 50s, 2 males 50s, 1 female 60s, 2 males 60s, 1 female 70s, 2 males 80s,
- DeKalb County: 1 female 50s
- DuPage County: 1 male 50s 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
- Kane County: 1 female 40s
- Kankakee County: 1 female 80s
- Lake County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
- LaSalle County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 90s
- Lee County: 1 male 60s
- McDonough County: 1 male 60s
- McHenry County: 1 male 60s
- Peoria County: 1 female 60s
- Tazewell County: 1 male 50s, 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s
- Will County: 1 male 90s
- Williamson County: 1 female 80s
- Winnebago County: 1 male 50s, 1 female 60s
- Woodford County: 1 male 50s
Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,335,055 cases, including 21,960 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 108,063 specimens for a total of 22,666,333. As of last night, 2,024 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 475 patients were in the ICU and 235 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.
The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from April 23-29, 2021 is 3.4%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from April 23-29, 2021 is 4.0%.
The total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Illinois is 11,687,325. A total of 9,259,706 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 92,747 doses. Yesterday, 103,717 doses were reported administered in Illinois.
*All data are provisional and will change. In order to rapidly report COVID-19 information to the public, data are being reported in real-time. Information is constantly being entered into an electronic system and the number of cases and deaths can change as additional information is gathered. Information for deaths previously reported has been changed, therefore numbers have been adjusted. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
After 10 years in Congress, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced Friday that she will not run for reelection in 2022.
“Today, I’m announcing I will not seek reelection after completing this term,” Bustos said in a video statement first obtained by HuffPost. “It will be a new decade, and I feel it’s time for a new voice.”
It’s not clear what Bustos plans to do next.
In an interview on Friday, Bustos told HuffPost that nothing in particular was driving her decision to go. She said she tends to make big changes every 10 years ― she worked as a reporter and then an editor for about two decades, and then in health care for 10 years ― and felt it was time for another shift.
We see this a lot right before remap elections. Making matters more difficult for Bustos was that she barely won her last reelection campaign and the remap is gonna be tough for her.
The following statement is from Congresswoman Robin Kelly, Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, thanking Congresswoman Cheri Bustos for her decade of service in the U.S. House of Representatives:
“There’s no better champion for Illinoisans than Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. Cheri has championed causes for Illinois workers, families, and farmers for a decade in Congress and I know she will continue to be a strong advocate for our state wherever her next chapter leads her. This is a big loss for the Illinois Congressional delegation, but we cannot thank Cheri enough for her countless contributions to our state.”
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) released the following statement after U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) announced she would not be running for re-election:
“Representative Bustos has served as, and will continue to serve as, an excellent representative for her community—she’s a hard worker who listens to her constituents, delivers tangible legislative wins for working families and provides stellar constituent service. I’ve enjoyed working with her on critical issues facing our state, such as supporting the Rock Island Arsenal and the agricultural community, protecting roadside first responders and making sure that National Guard troops receive the pay they earned. I have no doubt she will continue to get results for her district over the remainder of her term. I thank her for her leadership and know that we will miss her voice in the next Congress even as I am confident that she will continue to serve the Illinois community in the years to come.”
Today Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL 17th) announced her intention to not seek reelection in 2022. IDCCA President Kristina Zahorik released the following statement:
“Cheri Bustos is a genuine and caring person. Her commitment to her district is unparalleled, particularly to the hard-working middle class and rural communities. The “Cheri on Shift” program showed she was willing to roll up her sleeves and walk a mile in her constituents’ shoes. On behalf of all 102 County Democratic Party Chairs, I would like to personally thank Cheri for her service and commitment to Illinois.”
“I also applaud her early drive to train the next generation of Democrats through her Build the Bench series. The IDCCA was proud to partner with her. Build the Bench trained hundreds of Democratic candidates who have gone on to be elected throughout Illinois. We are grateful for her leadership and look forward to seeing what she has in store next.”
Following is a statement from Sen. Dick Durbin in response to U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos’ announcement that she would be retiring as Representative of the 17th Congressional District:
“When Cheri Bustos called last night to tell me her decision, I knew we were losing one of our best. She is honest, effective, and part of the new wave of women changing Washington.
“And for Loretta and me, her departure is personal. We have known her all of her life and we were proud to help launch her political career.
“Whatever her next choice in life, we know she will be a positive force for change.”
Today, IWIL Training Academy President Barbara Flynn Currie released the following statement on the retirement of Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IWIL Class of 2006) at the end of her current term in Congress.
“This past Wednesday, Americans witnessed a historic moment as the first woman Vice President and first woman Speaker of the House stood behind the President of the United States during an address to Congress. Without the tireless leadership of Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, that moment would not have been possible. She is a shining example of the hope and possibility we believe exists in all of our alumnae. Congresswoman Bustos has made the supporters who make our program possible and the enormous community in our state who fights to level the playing field for women in public life very proud.
Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership Training Academy congratulates her on her service to this country and to the people of Illinois’ 17th District. We look forward to following Congresswoman Bustos as she embarks on the newest chapter in her life of service when she completes her term in 2023.”
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos leaves on top after a decade representing northwest Illinois. I had the honor of serving with Representative Bustos on the Anti-Harassment, Equality, and Access Panel and her insights and leadership were invaluable. Of course her colleagues chose her to lead their re-election efforts in the last cycle because she has won their trust and admiration. Wherever she goes next, I’m sure she will continue to make Illinois proud. Thank you for your decade of dedicated service to Illinois!
A “ransomware” group potentially linked to Russia has uploaded to a website scores of documents it says were stolen from Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office over two weeks after the state’s top law enforcement officer first reported his office’s computer network was compromised.
Raoul had declined to publicly provide details of the hack, but on Thursday, he issued a follow-up statement, saying his office has set up a toll-free hotline for those seeking more information on the breach, which could include “names, addresses, email addresses, Social Security numbers, health insurance and medical information, tax information, and driver’s license numbers.” […]
The latest announcement comes after the ransomware group DoppelPaymer posted 68 documents it said are from the attorney general’s office, as well as other entities they’ve hit, on a website on which a user can find “private data of the companies which were hacked by DoppelPaymer.”
According to the website, the “companies decided to keep the leakage secret. And now their time to pay is over.”
This happened weeks ago and the AG’s office is only now finally telling the public about a ransomware attack? Before, all they would say was they were hacked.
* From the attorney general…
Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced the Office of the Attorney General is notifying the public in accordance with state statute, of a ransomware attack that has compromised the office’s network. While the extent of the information compromised is currently under investigation, the Attorney General’s office is launching a toll-free hotline and providing additional information to the public via its website.
The Attorney General’s office, aided by law enforcement and external technology experts, continues to evaluate the full extent of the compromise, including identifying the information that was exposed and what was done with that information. At the same time, work is taking place around the clock to rebuild the office’s network. In the interim, the Attorney General’s office is launching a hotline that will go into operation at 8 a.m. Central time Friday. The Attorney General’s office is providing additional information to answer individuals’ questions and help them protect against identity theft.
“While we do not yet know with certainty what was compromised in the ransomware attack, we are working closely with federal law enforcement authorities and outside technology experts to determine what information was exposed, how this happened, and what we can do to ensure that such a compromise does not happen again,” Raoul said. “This process will take time, but I understand that members of the public may have questions now, which is why I am establishing a toll-free hotline and making information available online. I am committed to transparency throughout this very sensitive process and will continue to provide updates that do not jeopardize the progress of our ongoing investigation or the security of our network.”
What has since been identified as a ransomware attack was initially discovered in the early hours of Saturday, April 10 when employees were unable to access the office’s network. The office launched an immediate investigation and has maintained close contact with federal law enforcement and external technology experts to determine which network components have been compromised. The office has continued regular operations to the extent possible while efforts to rebuild the network are underway.
Illinois statute requires residents to be notified if their information may have been compromised by a data breach. Accordingly, a public notification and answers to frequently asked questions related to the network compromise are now available on the Attorney General’s website. The Attorney General’s office has not yet determined what personal information on its network is impacted. However, information from the public stored on the office’s network includes names, addresses, email addresses, Social Security numbers, health insurance and medical information, tax information, and driver’s license numbers. The Attorney General’s office routinely offers guidance to help residents protect themselves from identity theft, and today’s public notice details steps people can take to protect their identities.
Attorney General Raoul also announced a dedicated toll-free hotline staffed by Rust Consulting Inc., a company that specializes in legal notifications. Beginning Friday, individuals who have questions about the network compromise can call the Attorney General’s Computer Network Compromise Hotline at 1-833-688-1949, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time.
The Attorney General’s office continues to evaluate the extent of the network compromise by ransomware. Additional details about the compromise and the personal information impacted will be made available on the Attorney General’s website, to the extent possible, upon completion of the office’s internal investigation and its work with law enforcement and external technology experts.
The mayor, meanwhile, wants to keep the decision-making under her purview. The current system makes the mayor accountable for school performance and, in turn, the $500 million the city doles out to CPS. There’s some question about what happens to that $500 million if the mayor isn’t in charge of schools. Would the state pay instead?
This threat was first made shortly before the House passed its bill the other day. So I reached out to the city to ask them for an explanation. I didn’t get a response back until late yesterday afternoon and decided to wait until today.
* From the city…
• The City of Chicago financially subsidizes Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with a variety of direct and indirect supports of students and district operations and has done so for many years.
• The biggest part of these financial subsidies is the contribution that the City is required to make per on behalf of CPS for the employer pension contributions to the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago (MEABF) for their non-teaching staff. This will grow to over $400 million in 2024.
o These financial subsidies are governed by the Pension Code of IL statute.
• The City also financially backs capital projects funded by property tax dollars to modernize CPS buildings.
• The total financial supports are estimated at $326 million in 2021, and will grow to $583 million by 2024.
• These financial supports to CPS will exceed the direct financial support that the state provides to all public universities except the University of Illinois in FY21.
• These are high levels of financial supports, and means that the Mayor needs a stake in the governance of CPS moving forward.
* Um, MEABF was created in 1921, long before the mayor was given complete control of CPS. And the split is 44 percent city employees and 56 percent from the board of education, according to MEABF. Teachers have their own pension fund.
For the city to now say that if the mayor doesn’t get her way then state taxpayers ought to fund city worker pensions (including aldermen) because the city wants to stop paying for something they’ve been responsible for (and grossly underfunded) during the past century is quite something. More details about the fund’s precarious state are here.
And as far as the capital funding goes, the city created that obligation itself.
Martwick pushed back against criticism we wrote about yesterday that an elected school board could eliminate or diminish the power of local school councils or voices of undocumented parents. The LSCs would still be in place, and undocumented parents can be part of them. They can’t, however, vote in general elections so they would be excluded from sitting on the school board. “That’s a separate issue” that would only complicate the bill that’s in play, Martwick said, who thinks LSCs can still flourish under a school board. He added that Latino Caucus members wouldn’t have signed on to support the bill if they thought immigrant voices were stifled. Rep. Delia Ramirez, for example, has carried the House version of the bill.
Martwick also dismissed the idea that an elected school board would prevent the city from paying $500 million it owes to Chicago Public Schools for pensions. Critics of his bill worry that taking the mayor out of the equation to run schools would eliminate accountability for such a payment. Martwick says “that’s what elections are for — to hold people accountable.”
* Also, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has been one of Mayor Lightfoot’s biggest supporters since her election. The two are personal friends and go way back. Most of his members had long voted for an elected school board, but they flip-flopped this year on Leader Ramirez’s bill.
I asked Durkin’s spokesperson yesterday if the House GOP Leader supports the mayor’s proposal to allow non-citizens to run for school board. I was told that he hasn’t reviewed it yet.
Dear Chairman John Sullivan [at Cresco Labs], Executive Director Pam Althoff and the CBAI Executive Committee:
After being part of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois since it started six years ago, we have made the decision to withdraw our membership and leave the association as of today.
We do not agree with the direction of the association or the focus that the governing body has established. We believe that expanding industry ownership and opportunity to new and diverse entrepreneurs should be CBAI’s top priority, along with addressing the cultivation side of the Industry. We have fundamental issues with several of the association’s self-interested initiatives. We do not want to be a thorn in CBAI’s side as membership seems aligned with your priorities, or at least willing to go along with them.
Given that Illinois is in the early innings of an adult use program, we expect change ahead. Dina Rollman and I are plugged in and around to help. If you would like to work with Dina on the social equity or cultivation priorities, please be in touch.
In the meantime, we will agree to disagree. Green Thumb’s main priority in Illinois is to increase diversity in ownership and create meaningful economic opportunities for minorities within the cannabis industry. I believe that if you talk the talk, you must the walk the walk. There is virtually no minority representation in our cannabis business community and our team is going to focus on being part of the solution. We believe Illinois still has the chance to lead by example.
Green Thumb Industries
The House Executive Committee is meeting this morning, so this should make things interesting.
* I’m told that Kovler is legit and is a major believer in equity. From his Twitter account…
Illinois needs leadership. The Governor's office punts all responsibility, looks to lawmakers to solve the problem the executive branch created.
"Pritzker's office did not respond to a request for comment."
* A provision in state law forbids new cannabis dispensaries from being located less than 1,500 feet to an existing dispensary. This has created what advocates and people like Kovler are calling “social equity exclusion zones.” Check ‘em out…
The Cannabis Business Association of Illinois believes social equity licenses must be issued as soon as possible and the General Assembly should focus on ensuring any change to cannabis law puts awards for social equity applicants at the forefront. This is no time for distractions. We have made clear that any negotiations on the law should occur between the General Assembly and the social equity applicants who have had their lives on hold waiting for licenses to be awarded.
CBAI has taken decisive action to ensure that social equity applicants have the best chance of success entering the marketplace:
• The CBAI Minority Access Committee, wholly comprised of social equity applicants, is negotiating with members of the General Assembly and other social equity groups on the association’s behalf for legislation that advances the interests of minority applicants.
• CBAI prioritizes issuing licenses to social equity applicants above all other changes in cannabis law, and continues to call on the Pritzker administration to focus its efforts on getting licenses into the hands of those the law was designed to help.
• CBAI has called for the State of Illinois to reimburse social equity applicants for costs associated with the delay in awarding licenses.
• CBAI incubates, coaches and mentors social equity applicants and established the Minority Business Associate Membership to give minorities a stronger voice in our association and in the industry statewide.
From the moment the cannabis bill became law, CBAI has advocated for policies that provide greater ownership opportunities for minority cannabis entrepreneurs, including set-aside licenses, innovative incubation and co-location programs, and omnibus legislative packages that would move the state forward on awarding social equity licenses.
A scathing independent report on last fall’s COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home that led to 36 deaths details systemic mismanagement from the top of the Illinois Veterans Affairs department down to the home’s leadership, which created an “inefficient, reactive and chaotic” response to controlling the virus.
The 50-page report from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General and the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale, released Friday, says then-VA Director Linda Chapa LaVia “abdicated” her responsibilities, leaving things to a nonmedical chief of staff who preferred to let each home manage itself while issuing rules contradictory to health guidelines and failing to seek outside help as the outbreak grew.
Chapa LaVia, a former Democratic state representative from Aurora, resigned as state VA director in January and did not agree to be interviewed for the report. Her chief of staff, Anthony Kolbeck, submitted his resignation last week.
The report also portrays the home’s former administrator, Angela Mehlbrech, who the governor fired in December, as detached from her staff, and the home’s infectious control nurse as overburdened and “over his skis.”
It cites a lack of planning, training and communications at the home that resulted in the failure of contact tracing among COVID-19-positive employees, improper use of protective gear and a screening desk that was “frequently left vacated.”
Former IDVA Director Linda Chapa LaVia, who resigned in January after making a “mutual decision” with Pritzker, is characterized as a largely absentee agency head in the report. According to interviews cited by investigators, Chapa LaVia “was not a hands-on or engaged day-to-day Director.” Instead, Chapa LaVia’s chief of staff Tony Kolbeck essentially ran the department — a notion Kolbeck himself acknowledged, according to the report.
Pritzker’s office and IDVA’s new acting director, appointed April 1, stressed Friday that many of the suggested fixes contained in the report have already been implemented even before receiving the final report Monday, or are in the process of remedying. Earlier this month, the family of a 90-year-old Korean War veteran who died in November sued the state for $2 million.
While the report places blame on Kolbeck’s shoulders for many decisions, it also notes several times that he was attempting to do the jobs of three people: his own chief of staff role, Chapa LaVia’s director role and a job overseeing the state’s four veterans homes — a position that has been vacant since 2019.
The report’s release roughly coincides with Kolbeck’s resignation, Pritzker’s office confirmed, though he’ll stay on for a two-week transition period.
Consistent statewide procedures and ongoing drills that target infection response and other emergencies will be routine at Illinois veterans’ homes after COVID-19 caught the LaSalle Veterans’ Home unprepared and claimed 36 lives last fall, the state’s newly appointed director said.
Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran and former senior adviser to the U.S. Surgeon General, has issued a six-point plan for improving readiness at the state’s veterans’ homes in Anna, Manteno, Quincy and LaSalle. The plan follows a blistering investigative report that laid out a string of miscommunications, lax policy and missed opportunities when the pandemic hit the home in LaSalle, 94 miles west of Chicago.
The report by the inspector general of the Illinois Department of Human Services, released Friday, noted that despite escaping all traces of the deadly respiratory illness for eight months after it entered Illinois, there was little done to devise protocols for preventing or managing infections. After the first four cases were reported Nov. 1, the virus spread to 60 residents and 43 employees as confused staff operated in an environment that was “inefficient, reactive and chaotic,” the report said.
“We need to train as if it’s always happening,” said Prince, who arrived in Illinois on April 1 from his post as superintendent of the Ohio Veterans Homes, where he administered three facilities. “When there is an absence of the virus we train even harder, so that when something does come to fruition, our people know exactly what to do and how to do it.”
The report is here. The IDVA press release is here. The IDVA acting director’s path forward is here. Subscribers have more.
…Adding… Sen. Sue Rezin represents LaSalle County…
This morning the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Illinois Department of Human Services released their investigation report on the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) releases the following statement about the report:
“The veterans who died as well as many of the family members who were directly impacted by the deadliest outbreak at a state facility in Illinois are my constituents. While I am still reviewing the OIG report in detail, it’s clear that the Administration has failed these individuals.
“The report reveals a lack of direction from the Governor’s office and department directors. One notable failure is the fact that the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs didn’t learn from previous outbreaks at facilities and did not implement recommendations that could have helped prevent this tragedy. The lack of action by the department is the reason why I filed legislation in February that would require the state to implement the findings of the Quincy Veterans’ Home Audit.
“The Illinois General Assembly must hold legislative hearings to discuss the findings of today’s report and we must pass legislation that ensures that we implement potential lifesaving policies.”
…Adding… Rep. Stephanie Kifowit…
The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) today released an independent report that was requested to fully investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans home that resulted in more than 200 Veterans and staff at the Home testing positive for the virus, and 36 Veteran deaths. State Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego), who is also a Veteran and Chair of the IL House Veterans’ Affairs Committee released the following statement:
“As an Honorably discharged Veteran of the US Marine Corps, I am beyond disgusted by the findings in this report. It confirms the suspicions of not only myself, but other members of the committee, of the failure in leadership of the IL Department of Veterans Affairs that we witnessed in over four hours of hearings that were held in 2020,” stated Representative Kifowit.
“Throughout the outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home, dedicated staff were reaching out to me directly with serious concerns and fear for the safety of our decorated Veterans who trust Illinois with their welfare. The genuine care of the rank-and-file staff was always shown to me of their devotion and sincerity for our Veterans, but the lack of protocols, leadership and structure on the department level let down our Veterans and the staff that care for them,” stated Kifowit.
The nearly 50-page report, released early Friday morning, details the multitude of failures by IDVA management staff and executive leadership. The report found “inadequate leadership and structure within the Home and IDVA resulted in the Home’s failure to adequately meet the increased expectations caused by the pandemic”. The report, link to the full report is here, found the following contributing factors:
• Lack of a comprehensive COVID-19 plan at the Home
• Leadership failed to effectively communicate, train and educate its employees on the dangers of COVID-19 and necessary precautions
• No established COVID-19 task force or committee for managing and monitoring COVID-19
• IDVA’s executive leadership team also contributed to the Home’s failed COVID-19 response.
“The past failures of IDVA, from the outbreak at Quincy, computer malfunctions for months affecting Veteran’s claims, an assistant Director being accused of sexual harassment and racism and now the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 at LaSalle are the reasons I passed HB359, creating the Veterans Accountability Unit for Veterans and their families that is independent of IDVA and will hold the department accountable.
“I look forward to working with Acting IDVA Director Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy Veteran with the experience in military and Veterans’ medical care that the department needs to ensure that the state of Illinois has a department that not only our Veterans and their families, but all Illinoisans can be proud of.”
State Representative Stephanie Kifowit is an honorably discharged Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has served as the Chair of Veterans Affairs since 2019. She was first elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2013 and is currently also the Chair of State Government Administration, Vice Chair of General Services Appropriations and a member of the Public Utilities and Revenue and Finance Committees.
* Rep. Yednock…
State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, issued the following statement on Friday in regard to the release of the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General and the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale’s report on last fall’s COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home:
“After reviewing this report, my heart breaks again for the families who lost loved ones. I feel their pain and share their anger. It’s clear that a failure of proper leadership combined with a series of preventable errors and sheer carelessness led to an unacceptable tragedy.”
“While this report sheds more light on how this tragedy happened, we owe it to those lost and their loved ones to do everything possible to ensure that nothing like it ever occurs again. This starts with putting the proper safeguards and plans in place for all veterans’ homes and ensuring those that failed to take action are held responsible.”
* Sen. Cullerton…
Following the release of a report from the Office of the Inspector General on the COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run LaSalle Veterans Home in November 2020, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D- Villa Park) called for hearings to further investigate the issue, discuss the obvious mistakes that occurred and how to move forward.
“It breaks my heart and I can’t imagine what the loved ones of those lost during this outbreak must be feeling,” said Cullerton, chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “This report will give me, my colleagues and our veterans’ families an opportunity to seek understanding of what occurred plus offer clarity on what can be done to prevent this situation in the future.”
From late October to December 2020, more than 200 veterans and staff at the LaSalle Veterans Home tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 36 deaths. When the state learned of the outbreak, the Veterans Affairs Committee held multiple hearings with witnesses from the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to determine what went wrong.
Following the outbreak, IDVA director Linda Chapa LaVia stepped down and was replaced by Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran who was also superintendent of the Ohio Veterans’ Homes, as acting IDVA director.
“Now that this report is out, we will hold hearings with the Veterans Affairs Committee to discuss these findings,” Cullerton said. “It is incredibly important that legislators have the opportunity to ask questions on this report. I spoke with the Governor this morning plus IDVA Director Prince late last night and was assured their teams would be helpful and responsive during these hearings. We can never bring these veterans back, but we can find answers. We owe it to their families and the veteran community to provide transparency and assurances that we cannot let this happen again.
Visiting a healthcare professional can be consequential: Cancer is diagnosed, patients are supported as they manage chronic conditions, and services and treatment are delivered to support mental health. During the pandemic, accessing healthcare in person was difficult, especially early on when non-emergent care was put on hold.
Telehealth saved the day, offering a safe option for Illinoisans to continue needed care. A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune identified telehealth as one of a handful of pandemic-related changes that caused “the public and elected officials to reconsider some of the laws and regulations that had long been taken for granted.” Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers all began fairly reimbursing healthcare professionals for telehealth visits—recognition of telehealth’s integral role in healthcare.
The editorial says, “Virtual consultations and treatment have expanded options for both medical professionals and patients. They have been shown to work well, saving patients time and travel expenses…. Once the pandemic has subsided, there is every reason that telehealth should be expanded and retained as a way to deliver care and counseling.” The Coalition to Protect Telehealth couldn’t agree more. Learn how permanent telehealth coverage will continue to provide Illinoisans’ access to quality, appropriate care.