State Rep. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore) participated in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday on the recent COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home and the Pritzker Administration’s response. 33 veterans at the Home have died since the outbreak was first reported in early November.
“The House Veterans’ Committee is thankful for the opportunity to meet safely to work to get to the bottom of what exactly happened at LaSalle Veterans’ Home. I am determined to honor the lives lost by doing what we can to get answers and provide oversight to avoid another situation like this from occurring in the future,” Rep. Keicher said. “I am encouraged about the implementation of Dr. Avery Hart’s specific recommendations to improve symptom screening, testing and staff management at our veterans’ homes in addition to the plan in place to vaccinate residents beginning later this month in partnership with CVS. However, there were failures here that cannot go unaddressed.”
Rep. Keicher joined all Republican members of the committee in sending a letter on November 10 to Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego), the Chairperson of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee requesting an immediate hearing and swift response to the outbreak, pledging to work together on a bipartisan basis. Kifowit did not respond to the Republicans’ request until December 4; and the hearing itself was not held until today.
Today’s hearing revealed that, inexplicably, it took twelve days from the initial outbreak at LaSalle before the Illinois Department of Public Health sent personnel to conduct an infection control assessment, by which time the outbreak had spread throughout Home and lives had already been lost. It was not until December 10 that Governor Pritzker announced that Illinois National Guard medical staff were being sent to the LaSalle Veterans’ Home to assist with COVID-19 testing and screening at the facility.
“I remain extremely frustrated by the slowness of the Administration’s initial response to the outbreak, and how long it took for this hearing to be scheduled,” Rep. Keicher added. “We grieve the 33 lives that have been lost among our heroes living at LaSalle. They and their families deserved better protection from the state responsible for their care during the crucial first days of the outbreak.”