State audit finds poor planning caused deadly COVID outbreak at LaSalle veterans home; Gov. Pritzker, GOP rivals make it political
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CHICAGO (CBS) — A total of 36 veterans died from COVID-19 inside a state-run home in the fall of 2020.

We’ve reported on it for months.

A new report out this week offers new insight into how badly the facility in Central Illinois was mismanaged during the peak of the pandemic.

And as CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported. this political season is being shaped by the leaks in Roe v. Wade, the economy, and how leaders handled or mishandled the pandemic. In Illinois, expect Gov. Pritzker’s grade on that last issue to be dented a bit by what happened in that state-run nursing home.

Both Pritzker and his critics brought politics into that very discussion over the last two days.

It has now been 18 months since COVID swept through the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. Families of those who died in the outbreak have spoken out about their losses.

“A loving, gentle, caring family man who didn’t deserve to die the way that he did,” said Lindsay Lamb, the granddaughter of Richard Cieski Sr., who died at the facility.

COVID was the cause of death – but government mismanagement was rampant inside too, according to a report out Thursday by the state’s Auditor General.

“Although the Illinois Department of Public Health… officials were informed of the increasing positive cases almost on a daily basis… IDPH did not identify and respond to the seriousness of the outbreak.” the auditor wrote. “All but four residents who died were positive prior to the date of the IDPH site visit.”

READ THE FULL AUDIT REPORT

Gov. Pritzker addressed the report on Thursday.

“There is no way that you can see across 50,000-plus people in your government – as governor – exactly what everybody is doing,” Pritzker said.

The governor reminded reporters he fired the veterans’ home administrator, while recalling the medical pressures and politics of November 2020.

“Republicans told them that they need not wear masks,” Pritzker said. “They people that they didn’t need to get vaccinated. They told people that that COVID wasn’t serious.”

In a press event on Friday, Republicans fired back.

“The governor went so far yesterday as to blame Republicans for the outbreak,” said state Rep. Randy Freeze (R-Quincy). “We saw the governor stand behind his politically-appointed director. The governor did not lead. He obfuscated.”

It has now been 18 months since those deaths. Families now filing lawsuits against the state as the final reports on blame come into focus.

It is all part of creating transparency on what happened inside the walls of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, while also fueling a political season that is just heating up.

Both sides are taking credit for calling for investigations into what happened. And we checked – both can legitimately take credit.

The governor called for a state Inspector General’s report last year that called the LaSalle Veterans’ Home “inefficient, reactive, and chaotic.” Meanwhile, GOP legislators called for the Auditor General’s report that came out Thursday.e.



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