Rezin continues to push outbreak protections for vets homes

Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 6:19 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Thirty-six veterans died during a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home in 2020. The Pritzker administration forced the resignation of the state’s veterans’ affairs director and an audit of alleged mismanagement of the home is underway. Still, a Republican state senator wants to see more done.

Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) filed three proposals last year to hold the state accountable for the 36 deaths and help prepare for future outbreaks.

The Illinois Department of Public Health waited 11 days after the outbreak was first reported before showing up on-site to assess the situation. One of Rezin’s bills would require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and IDPH to visit an outbreak site within 48 hours.

Another plan could require state-run facilities to have outbreak preparedness drills.

“If the governor truly wants to say that he has changed what has happened in the past and that he has corrected the problems, then he should publicly support my bills,” Rezin said.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1445 could give the Inspector General subpoena powers to improve outcomes of state investigations. This comes after former IDVA Director Linda Chapa LaVia refused to cooperate in the investigation following the outbreak.

Rezin says each of those plans should have bipartisan support, but none of the bills have Democratic co-sponsors. Those bills have yet to be moved out of the Senate Assignments Committee. She’s frustrated that the proposals have never received a proper hearing.

“The question is not about do my colleagues in the Senate support this bill. The question is does the governor support this bill,” Rezin said. “It’s the governor’s failure and his administration’s failure to address the outbreak, especially after going through an outbreak at the Quincy home.”

Rezin is referring to the Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Quincy Veterans’ Home that killed 13 veterans and made dozens of others sick. She noted that some of the changes in her proposals were recommended by the Illinois Auditor General three years ago and Pritzker never enacted them.

“We agree with Sen. Rezin,” said John Patterson, spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon. “There’s an ongoing audit regarding the response to this tragic situation. We eagerly await that report so we can see what the investigation recommends to address any issues or problems.”

The Pritzker administration has not responded to requests for comment.

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