Lawmakers request investigation into La Salle Veterans Home outbreak

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Seven Republican members of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the Illinois House of Representatives signed a letter Tuesday asking for the committee to convene as soon as possible and investigate a COVID-19 outbreak at the La Salle Veterans Home, questioning if there was a breakdown in protocols.

A resident of the veterans home died Tuesday from complications related to COVID-19 – the seventh COVID-related death at the home. There are 72 residents and 72 employees with COVID-19, according to information released Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

That’s an increase of 84 cases since Nov. 6.

"We believe we must quickly investigate how and why this most recent outbreak occurred and what steps are being taken by the [Gov. JB] Pritzker administration to stop the spread of COVID-19 at all state-run veterans homes and health care facilities," stated the letter addressed to state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, who serves as the chair of the committee.

The first notice of COVID-19 activity at the La Salle Veterans Home was issued Nov. 1 when facility administrator Angela Mehlbrech said there were two residents and two staff members who tested positive for COVID-19.

Another letter was issued by Mehlbrech two days later to confirm 20 more residents and five more employees had tested positive.

On Nov. 6, she said the outbreak had increased to 48 positive residents and 12 positive employees. The next day, that total increased to 60 residents and 43 employees; then 62 residents and 69 employees Nov. 9.

In her latest letter issued Wednesday, she said there have been 36 additional cases in the facility.

"Throughout this pandemic, we have been following recommendations from state and local health officials to safeguard everyone at the facility, and despite the outbreak, we continue to do health screenings of staff and residents, maintain social distancing practices, wear face coverings, use gloves and gowns when indicated and perform thorough cleaning and disinfection," Mehlbrech said.

The volume of cases and the pace it spread is driving lawmakers to ask questions.

"The increase we have seen at the La Salle Veterans Home is frightening and leaves us with many unanswered questions about the failures in protocol that has caused such a widespread outbreak," the lawmakers’ letter said.

While Shaw Media wasn’t able to reach Kifowit early evening Wednesday, she told ABC News in Chicago she too was asking how COVID-19 spread so quickly if protocols were in place.

The lack of transparency in the state’s handling of a Legionnaires outbreak at the Quincy Veterans Home, which resulted in 12 deaths and dozens more getting sick, also prompted lawmakers to ask for an investigation into La Salle’s situation.

Pritzker said during a press conference that it is a challenge to prevent the virus from getting into long-term care facilities, such as the veterans home, noting that the staffs at the veterans homes across the state have done a good job of keeping the virus away.

There have been 13 long-term care facilities with reported COVID-19 outbreaks in La Salle County since the beginning of the pandemic, resulting in at least 494 cases and 63 of the county’s 87 deaths from complications related to COVID-19, according to the IDPH.

"You can’t 100% keep everybody safe in this environment," Pritzker said. "Especially when our communities, our mayors, our councils or county boards and county chairs aren’t living up to the mitigations, they’re not following or enforcing mitigations in many parts of the state."

Veterans Affairs Committee Member and State Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said he will push for the committee to give the situation a second look.

"For the past seven to eight months [that] we’ve been fighting COVID, the IDPH and the governor’s office has known congregate living are prime potential for spread," said Keicher, who signed the letter. "As a state, we should ensure we have the best practices in place where there’s the strongest potential for spread.

"These are people who put their lives on the line on behalf of our country. We owe them nothing short of their safety and security, including some of those that are the most vulnerable. They stood their ground for us. We need to stand our ground for them."

Region: Northern,Feeds,News,Region: Sauk Valley

via Bureau County Republican https://www.bcrnews.com

November 11, 2020 at 08:50PM

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