Pritzker draws distinctions between outbreaks at veterans’ homes in LaSalle, Quincy

(The Center Square) – While Gov. J.B. Pritzker deals with a COVID-19 outbreak at an Illinois home for veterans, he is being reminded that a cornerstone of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign was the 2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Quincy veterans home.

Pritzker criticized then-Gov. Bruce Rauner during the campaign regarding the handling outbreak which killed 12 people as a “shameful display of leadership.”

“It is a shameful neglect of our veterans who we should be standing up for every single day,” Pritzker said during a 2018 debate.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle veterans home has infected more than 200 people and has killed 29 veterans, nearly a quarter of the residents at the state-run facility.

Just before Thanksgiving, the Illinois Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee received word about the outbreak from early November where lax standards were observed after employees left the facility. There also was poor ventilation and ineffective hand sanitizer.

Investigators weren’t called in until 11 days after the first case. Dozens of residents and staff were infected. Illinois House Republicans are demanding more hearings on the matter.

The Pritzker administration said it has launched an inspector general investigation into the LaSalle outbreak. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Illinoisans deserve action and answers.

“Why doesn’t the Pritzker administration have a team on the ground now? What is the governor going to do today to help my constituents at the LaSalle Veteran’s Home and their families?” Kinzinger said in a statement.

The governor addressed the issue during a COVID-19 briefing this week.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s unacceptable when we see rampant infection somewhere,” he said. “If there’s any failure of procedure or wrongdoing, then that should be brought to the forefront and people should be held accountable.”

Kayleen Carlson, executive director of the political action group Illinois Rising Action, said Pritzker was being hypocritical by not following through on campaign promises he made in 2018.

“Then-candidate Pritzker and his campaign team repeatedly said governors need to take responsibility for the state agencies they run, and apparently that does not apply in 2020,” Carlson said.

Pritzker on Tuesday was asked to compared and contrast the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Quincy with the COVID-19 outbreak in LaSalle. He said his administration followed the law regarding reporting the LaSalle outbreak to families. He also said his administration had issued two reports so far on what happened.

“I think there’s an awful lot of difference,” Pritzker said.

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