* Hannah Meisel…
In the months before the state-run veterans’ home in LaSalle saw a massive COVID-19 outbreak that eventually killed more than a quarter of the facility’s residents, leaders at the state agency that oversees the home obscured its inner workings from Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, a top Pritzker staffer told lawmakers on Thursday.
Thirty-six residents at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home eventually died after testing positive for COVID in an outbreak that began in early November and spread to more than 100 residents and more than 100 staff members. A damning inspector general’s report on the outbreak released late last month faulted absentee leadership, lack of preparedness, lax COVID protocols and poor communication as contributing factors for the crisis at the home.
In an appearance in front of the Illinois House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Thursday, Deputy Gov. Sol Flores painted the state’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs as a sort of black box, repeatedly telling lawmakers she believed what top officials at the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs was telling her in the months leading up to the LaSalle outbreak. […]
“It’s not just grief; I also share your rage at the loss of life that occurred at LaSalle,” Flores said. “What I was told was happening there is a far cry from the circumstances set forth in the [inspector general]’s report.”
* Rick Pearson…
Mazzochi also noted that on Nov. 11, Pritzker appeared at a ribbon-cutting for a new veterans home in Chicago where he touted the success of the agency in combating COVID-19 in veterans homes despite what was happening at LaSalle.
“We’ve worked very hard. Our veterans homes really have done an outstanding job of keeping our veterans safe. But you can’t 100% keep everybody safe in this environment” when local officials aren’t enforcing mitigations, Pritzker said at the ribbon-cutting.
That was a day before the state public health department and the federal Veterans Affairs sent an on-site team to LaSalle, where they found lapses in protocols and the use of non-alcohol based hand sanitizer as well as staff congregating without masks.
By Nov. 9, two days before Pritzker’s statement, the home had more than 60 positive cases, and by Nov. 13, two days after his statement, 10 veterans had died.
“How could you let him make that statement with a straight face … given the nature of the briefing that you gave him internally on Nov. 9?” Mazzochi asked after Flores said she briefed Pritzker of the intensifying outbreak.
“We didn’t understand the full scope of what was happening until after Nov. 10,” Flores replied.
But she also said Pritzker had ordered the public health agency be “immediately” deployed to LaSalle on Nov. 9. They arrived three days later.
The TV ads write themselves.
Ironically enough, Gov. Rauner did a public event with his own IDVA director at the beginning of the Quincy Legionnaires’ outbreak. That came back to haunt him, too.