SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — A group of Illinois State Republicans are calling for legislative hearings in the wake of a bombshell report on the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home last fall.
The Illinois Department of Human Services Inspector General’s report indicated failure from the “physically absent” leadership and insufficient policies and procedures led to the deaths of 36 veterans and hundreds of COVID-19 cases.
“This scathing report reinforces our need for immediate hearings. We have a responsibility to provide oversight, call witnesses, get to the bottom of exactly what happened that caused the sickness and deaths of veterans living under the care of the Pritzker administration and the state of Illinois,” said State Rep. Randy Frese (R-Quincy).
The first case of COVID-19 at the Veteran’s Home was on Nov. 1, 2020, and quickly climbed to 60 cases in a week, according to the report.
State Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) accused Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) of covering up the failings on Nov. 10 when he “said our Veterans’ Department has done an outstanding job of keeping veterans and our Veterans’ Homes safe.”
However, Demmer said a report from Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs two days later said “the management team and staff did not anticipate and were not prepared for an outbreak.”
“During the first 282 days into a public health emergency that changed everyone’s lives, the management and staff at the Veterans’ Home did not anticipate and was not prepared for an outbreak. That is a clear failure of leadership, that is denial, that is total chaos and confusion,” said Demmer.
State Rep. David Welter (R-Morris) said during the outbreak he heard from families concerned about limited communication and delayed testing results.
“We later found out that the staff at the home were not using alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill the coronavirus as recommended by the World Health Organization, nor were they using proper PPE [personal protective equipment],” he said.
State Rep. Daniel Swanson (R-Woodhull) said failure to follow health protocols cost the veterans’ their lives.
“We need to initiate hearings now to review these findings, and probe deeper into who knew what and where. We owe these hometown heroes and their families nothing less,” he said.
WMBD-TV reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment.