Governor J.B. Pritzker has sent National Guard staff to the Quincy & LaSalle Veteran’s Home a day after dismissing their use as rumor. Members of the Illinois National Guard staff have been sent to the 2 veterans homes to help with COVID-19 testing and screening at the facilities. According to Illinois NPR’s Hannah Meisel, the assignment is not considered a deployment because they are staff members and not a part of the state’s reserve units.
According to a statement obtained by NPR, La Salle County Veterans Assistance Commission Superintendent Steven Kreitzer says the National Guard staff will be used to maintain records of temperature checks and COVID-19 testing as well as enforcing proper PPE usage throughout their facility to provide relief to the site’s nurses.
33 LaSalle residents have died from COVID-19 while Quincy has reported 2 since the beginning of the pandemic. According to data obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 32 residents in the Quincy home are currently positive with 3 hospitalized out of the facilities 293 residents. 22 staff members have also been reported as positive.
Meisel directly questioned Pritzker on Tuesday about plans to send National Guard to the LaSalle facility, but the governor sidestepped the question, asking Meisel where she got her rumors from.
As a gubernatorial candidate in 2018, Pritzker made former Governor Bruce Rauner’s handling of the 2015 Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak that killed 14 residents a central attack in his campaign. The State of Illinois agreed to pay a $6.4 million settlement to families of the deceased back in April. No criminal indictments came after a 3-year investigation and negligence cases in court.
The Pritzker Administration fired the LaSalle home’s administrator and placed the director of nursing on administrative leave on Monday among other personnel moves after the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs found shortcomings in safety protocols during independent investigations started on November 24th.
Pritzker addressed the question today and said he was unaware that the National Guard staff had been activated and apologized for sidestepping the question.