* Press release…
Attorneys today filed suit on behalf of the family of 90-year-old Richard Cieski, Sr., a Korean War veteran who died in November 2020 following exposure to the novel coronavirus at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.
The facility was negligent in failing to protect their husband and father from the virus, the family says, citing the facility’s apparent lack of precautions or preparation from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 to the start of the November outbreak that ultimately resulted in the death of 36 residents.
Mr. Cieski died on November 15, 2020, having been exposed to the virus during that outbreak.
Media reports at the time said that many staff members attended an off-site Halloween party that could have led to the outbreak. Other reports indicated that staff members were given 3-day tests for the virus and continued to work at the facility during the 3-day period while they awaited results. The state’s Department of Veterans Affairs has admitted that hand sanitizer used at the facility was found ineffective against the virus, and has identified multiple, systemic failures at the facility including improper symptom screening, staff members not practicing social distancing, and staff touching residents without performing hand hygiene or disposing of gloves in between use.
According to state records, it took 12 days for a representative from the Illinois Department of Public Health to go to the home and investigate the November outbreak. Several Illinois legislators are calling for an independent investigation and State Senator Sue Rezin is sponsoring a bill that would require IDPH and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to make on-site visits within one business day of when an outbreak is identified.
Levin & Perconti, a law firm nationally renowned for its work representing victims in nursing home abuse and neglect cases, launched multiple investigations on behalf of families whose loved ones died from COVID-19 following exposure at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home and has already filed suits on behalf of COVID victims in a dozen private nursing homes across the state. The Cieski family’s suit is believed to be the first against an Illinois veterans’ home.
“After seeing what was happening with outbreaks at facilities nationwide, LaSalle Veterans’ Home had plenty of time to order enough PPE and properly staff the home to care for the residents,” said Levin & Perconti partner Michael Bonamarte. “Richard Cieski’s death could have been avoided had LaSalle taken appropriate precautions.”
“By November, CDC protocols and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines were clear and well-known,” added Levin & Perconti partner Margaret Battersby Black. “There were standards in place that should have been followed and practices that could have been enforced. An appropriately fast and comprehensive response to potential staff exposure to the virus could have saved lives, but, instead, the outbreak spread for 12 days before anyone from the state of Illinois even arrived to investigate it. This suit is about holding officials accountable for that failure and ensuring that it never happens again.”
* Let’s do a roundup. Another press release…
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is resuming in-person visitation at its correctional facilities, affording incarcerated people the opportunity to see their loved ones for the first time in more than a year. With most people in IDOC custody now vaccinated, the Department’s Office of Health Services and Operations Unit worked closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to develop a multi-phase plan for resuming in-person visits in the safest manner possible. To prevent the potential for COVID-19 infection spread, IDOC, after consultation with IDPH, suspended visitation on March 14, 2020. East Moline Correctional Center is now accepting visitors and the Department’s remaining correctional facilities are preparing to reopen their visiting rooms over the next few weeks.
Visitation Start Dates
April 12, 2021: East Moline Correctional Center
April 19, 2021: Graham, Taylorville, Jacksonville, Dixon, Centralia, and Stateville Correctional Centers; Stateville Northern Reception Center; Fox Valley, Crossroads and North Lawndale ATCs; Elgin Treatment Center
April 26, 2021: Pinckneyville, Sheridan, Big Muddy River, Pontiac, Shawnee, Vienna, Hill, Lawrence, Illinois River, Robinson, and Vandalia Correctional Centers; Joliet Treatment Center; Peoria ATC; Kewanee and Murphysboro Life Skills Re-Entry Centers
May 3, 2021: Southwestern Illinois, Decatur, Logan, Lincoln, Western Illinois, Danville, and Menard Correctional Centers
“Maintaining family connection is a vital component of an incarcerated person’s mental and emotional well-being,” said IDOC Acting Director Rob Jeffreys. “Because of the aggressive measures the Department has taken to mitigate COVID-19 within our facilities, IDOC is one of the few correctional systems in the nation now reopening to visitors.”
Everyone who enters an IDOC correctional facility is symptom screened, temperature checked, and provided a surgical mask. Plexi-glass barriers have been installed on visiting tables, which are spaced apart to allow for proper social distancing. Visiting rooms and restrooms are deep cleaned between visits. IDOC is utilizing an online system to schedule visits and limit the number of visitors permitted at one time. More information on the resumption of in-person visitation is available on the Department’s website.
Hotels in Illinois suffered 80% revenue losses during “devastating” pandemic closures, and occupancy rates and the price of hotel rooms lag behind rivals in other states where restrictions have been lifted, an industry lobbyist said.
“We’ve already lost business to states like Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, that have been opened up quicker,” Michael Jacobson, president & CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, said on Capitol Connection. “Illinois is certainly lagging. And many states that have had these restrictions in place are definitely lagging compared to states that have reopened quicker.”
“We’re hopeful — especially with that bridge phase announcement, and eventually advancing into phase five — hopeful that this summer that we’ll be in a position to host those larger gatherings come later this year and into 2022,” he said. “So we’re hopeful that we’ll be in a position to be able to bring those people back and that we’ll be able to start rehiring our workers. The question becomes, ‘are we going to be in a position to just hold on that long while we wait for those large events to come back next year?’”
Jacobson urged the state to provide $250M in grant funding for a ‘Hotel Job Recovery Program’ that he says would allow hotels to rehire staff laid off during the pandemic.
* Press release…
The Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) and Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) have distributed over 1,100 connectivity and assistive devices to older adults and persons with disabilities who have been disproportionally affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, after receiving $1.7 million from the federal Administration for Community Living in May 2020.
Specifically, the funding was used to purchase technology devices; including iPads, tablets and internet / Wi-Fi / hotspot access to combat social isolation and loneliness among older adults and individuals who are disabled. The devices have applications like FaceTime, Zoom, mental stimulation and others so individuals can connect with family members and friends. Devices were distributed throughout Illinois beginning in August. Personal accounts of how these devices truly Made Connections, can be viewed here.
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The state has also seen an increase in coronavirus hospitalizations over the last month. As of Saturday night, 1,834 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients — up 23% from last week. Of those, 409 were in intensive care units and 173 were on ventilators, officials said.
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