Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle reports 27 veteran deaths due to COVID-19; state officials demand answers, accountability

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020
State officials demand answers after 27 veterans die from COVID-19 at veterans home
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Illinois Veterans Home at LaSalle saw its total deaths go up to 27 since last week.

LASALLE, Ill. (WLS) -- The Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle continued to see its number of deaths rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic and officials are demanding answers.

Long term care facilities, including the LaSalle home, account for more than half of Illinois' COVID-19 deaths. Those numbers continue to grow during the second surge.

According to Illinois Department of Veterans, 27 veterans who lived at the home have died from the virus. The home continues to see a dramatic and concerning uptick in cases.

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"That's over 20 percent of our veterans that have passed away in the past several weeks." said State Senator Sue Rezin, North Central Illinois, 38th district.

Sen. Rezin is looking for answers to the growing number of deaths at the veterans home, which is in her district.

"November 4th, there were only four cases of COVID within the home," Rezin said. "Very quickly within the past 20 days, we've had almost 200 cases."

Rezin called on the department to do a transparent and thorough investigation after getting reports of health protocol breakdowns.

"I'm hearing about breakdowns where people are actually in place are testing positive for COVID, but they're forced to work, go to work in the home," Rezin said. "I even heard the stories of people walking around who have tested positive for COVID that are not wearing masks."

Family members of residents and state leaders also worried about ongoing compassionate care visits that are being done on a case-by-case visit for those most sick.

"We certainly don't want them to be alone, but we also don't want to risk more community spread considering that this outbreak is so massive," said State Representative Stephanie Kifowit, chairperson for the Illinois House Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Governor JB Pritzker said the state sent an infection control team to the Illinois Veteran's Home.

"When there is massive, widespread community spread, you just, there's no way to keep it out of every facility," Pritzker said.

The Illinois Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday virtually to talk about the COVID-19 crises at the LaSalle home.

"We need answers and we need answers today," Rezin said.

Veterans Affairs said it was committed to communicating with the residents, families and staff of the veterans home in a responsible and transparent manner regarding COVID-19.

RELATED: COVID-19 outbreak at Illinois Veterans Home in LaSalle leaves 7 dead, 140 sick

"Since our last COVID-19 update there have been three additional cases at our home. Since the beginning of the crisis we have had a total of 96 positive residents and 93 positive employees," administrator Angela Mehlbrech said in a statement.

According to the statement on Nov. 17, the veterans home has been following recommendations from state and local health officials to safeguard everyone at the facility. The statement also emphasized the necessary protocols for visitors.