LASALLE, Illinois (AP) – State officials are investigating an outbreak of a coronavirus in an Illinois rural veteran nursing home that has infected nearly 200 residents and staff and killed 27 veterans.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s office and the State Department of Veterans Affairs are trying to determine what caused the epidemic at the state-run LaSalle Veterans ’Home in LaSalle, about 145 miles southwest of Chicago.
The ministry on Tuesday requested an independent investigation into the facility, which was the focus of a virtual hearing of the state senate committee on the epidemic.
“The tragedy of what happened in the veterans’ home cannot be underestimated, ”said state senator Sue Rezin, who represents the district where the home is located. “I am delighted that the director has called for an independent inquiry and I agree that lessons can be learned from this terrible epidemic that has claimed the lives of 27 heroes in our nation.”
The current epidemic was identified in late October when an employee and a resident tested the virus positively. According to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, two-thirds of residents and employees have given a positive result since early November.
“On November 4, there were only four cases of COVID in the home,” Rezin said Monday. “Very quickly, we’ve had almost 200 cases in the last 20 days.”
Dr. Avery Hart, a counselor in the state’s public health department, said at the hearing that there were outbreaks of all 16 long-term care facilities in LaSalle County.
“It’s no coincidence that cases within the home increased just as cases have increased dramatically within the surrounding community,” Veterinary Director Linda Chapa LaVia said at the hearing on Tuesday.
State officials stepped up inspections of staff at the facility and, according to the governor, sent an infection control team home. By Tuesday morning, 40 out of 101 residents and 24 staff members had tested the virus positively.
Also on Tuesday, the state health director said Illinois will receive COVID-19 in far fewer doses than originally estimated. Dr. Ngozi Ezike told reporters that he expects the state to receive about 80,000 initial doses instead of the 400,000 doses expected by Illinois officials for FDA approval of the vaccines.
He also said he still expects health and emergency workers who may come into direct contact with coronavirus patients to be vaccinated first.