24 COVID-19 deaths at LaSalle vets’ home launches first pandemic public oversight hearing in Illinois

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(The Center Square) – The first public oversight hearing throughout the pandemic is set for Tuesday when members of the Illinois Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will meet virtually to focus on a COVID-19 outbreak in LaSalle.

Tuesday’s hearing will be available to view online at 1 p.m. Committee members will hear testimony from agencies regarding the state’s COVID-19 mitigation at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.

“This hearing will help answer questions and give the residents, their families and Senate committee members greater insight into the safety protocols used by the LaSalle Veterans’ Home staff to keep our veterans healthy and safe,” said committee chairman, state Sen Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park. “We hope to work together to ensure our veterans receive the best care possible.”

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said he’s been told in two weeks time that 24 of the 124 residents of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home passed away.

“If those statistics are true, those are just really frightening and hair-raising, and I’d like to get some answers as far as what has happened to cause this,” Schimpf said.

It’s been eight months of the governor’s unilateral COVID-19 orders reshaping how the state’s businesses can operate while the world waits for a vaccine. Schimpf said to his knowledge, Tuesday’s hearing is the first public oversight hearing of the governor’s handling of COVID-19.

“It is unfortunate that such a tragedy is what it took to get us to hold the first oversight hearing,” he said. “This is a necessary hearing and the people of Illinois deserve some answers for what has caused this tragedy.”

More than 150 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, the pair said in a joint statement. The Illinois Department of Public Health shows 187 reported cases at the home and 24 deaths.

Schimpf said in the past eight months, it’s clear to him the focus of COVID-19 mitigation needs to be on congregate settings, not clamping down on economic activity through capacity restrictions at private businesses.

“I think that’s mostly pseudoscience,” Schimpf said of the governor’s orders limiting business operations. “We should have been really focusing almost all of our attention on protecting our vulnerable population because there’s where most of the tragedies have occurred.”

Of the 11,304 COVID-19 related deaths in Illinois, 5,782 have been in long-term care facilities. That’s 51 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 in such facilities, which are regulated by the state.

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