COVID-19 outbreak at Illinois veterans’ home being investigated

Local News

American flags are placed at a fountain in honor of fallen service members during a ceremony at the Tidewater Veterans Memorial in Virginia Beach for Veterans Day. The City of Virginia Beach has been hosting the Veterans Day parade and ceremonies since 1970. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Betsy Knapper/Released)

UPDATE: The outbreak infected nearly 200 residents and staff, and killed 27 veterans, The Associated Press reported.

EARLIER UPDATE: The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs released two reports Tuesday, in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that address the recent outbreak of COVID-19 at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in LaSalle.

IDVA is adopting all recommendations in the reports in all four of the Illinois Veterans’ homes and is releasing the reports in their entirety to the public. The administration has also ordered the Acting Inspector General from the Illinois Department of Human Services, to conduct an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the outbreak at the LaSalle home and will immediately address any findings from that investigation.

“As a proud Army Veteran, I take the mission of safeguarding the wellbeing of our Veteran heroes very personally,” said IDVA Director Linda Chapa LaVia. “These brave men and women sacrificed everything fighting for the freedoms we so often take for granted. It is our moral obligation to care for them just as they have cared for us. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent loss of lives at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home is a tragedy. My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of those who have become ill and those who have passed on. The IDVA is committed to a transparent review of the circumstances surrounding the outbreak and has adopted all recommendations from the IDPH, CDC, CMS and U.S. VA moving forward.”

“Long-term care facilities, like our Veterans’ homes, are at greater risk for COVID-19 spread,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “Increased spread of the virus in the community can also threaten residents in long-term care facilities as health care workers can be exposed to COVID-19 while away from work and then inadvertently introduce the virus into the facility.  We can all help protect our honored heroes in our Veterans’ homes by decreasing the amount of virus circulating in our communities by staying home as much as possible, wearing our masks, and watching our distance.”

Upon receiving the reports, IDVA acted to adopt all recommendations at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home and the remaining three Veterans’ homes where applicable. This included re-training staff on mask requirements, replacing one brand of hand sanitizer with a product more effective at fighting the virus, and strengthening the screening process for employees as they arrive for work and during periodic checks during the workday.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the administration has instructed the Inspector General of the Department of Human Services to conduct an independent investigation of the outbreak at LaSalle, aimed at uncovering any lapses in protocol and employee compliance with rules, which will enable IDVA to ensure best practices moving forward.

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