Eye On Illinois: Get ahead of spin, read vets home audit directly

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Read it for yourself.

Above all else, that is my recommendation for how to react to the auditor general’s performance audit of the state’s response to a November 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at the veterans home in La Salle: Read it for yourself.

Frank Mautino’s office released the 154-page document Thursday. Soon after came the news releases and social media posts. A few people cautioned about first-blush reactions, or acknowledged they’d only read the key findings, but those caveats get lost in the rush to score political points, especially in this stage of a campaign cycle.

I first wrote about the situation on Veterans Day 2020, back when only 48 residents (about 30%) and 12 employees had tested positive. Things quickly got worse.

According to the audit, testing identified 203 total positive cases by the end of November, and “between Oct. 23, 2020, and Dec. 9, 2020, 109 of the home’s 128 residents (85%) and 88 of the home’s 231 staff (38%) had tested positive.” Between Nov. 7 and Jan. 1, 36 residents died.

I most recently addressed the situation on March 12, writing that state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, wasn’t wrong to insist the state isn’t adequately prepared for the next veterans home crisis.

“We need only to look back at the Gov. Bruce Rauner-era Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Quincy home to realize there weren’t enough lessons learned to present coronavirus from wreaking havoc at La Salle under Gov. JB Pritzker,” I wrote. Whether viral or bacterial in origin, “it remains astounding that 40-plus veterans died under state care in just a few years and there’s still questions about adequate protections for whatever might come next.”

In other words, this isn’t unexplored territory. Nor was this outbreak unpredictable. People have a right to be angry and to vent that frustration. There’s little agreement on what constitutes complete accountability, but firing a few people months ago hasn’t seemed to check the box.

So my advice is for a select audience, those whose primary concern in this moment is preventing the next tragedy: Read the audit for yourself. Step away from political bluster and into the facts of the matter. Clear some time, because this is dense material. Steel yourself as well, because it’s not easy to process emails from Nov. 2, 2020, and consider the potential outcomes from better responses.

The document is downloadable from tinyurl.com/VetHomeAudit. It will be source material for future legislative hearings. Campaign materials will include excerpts. Take time now to get ahead of the spin.

My sincere hope is we don’t look back on La Salle like we do Quincy, a fatal, cautionary tale not properly heeded. Anger is strong, but not as powerful as information.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

via Shaw Local

May 7, 2022 at 07:32AM

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