State Sen. Sue Rezin calls for more hearings on La Salle Veterans Home COVID-19 outbreak

Lawmakers want Veterans Affairs Committee to meet; IDPH to testify

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and Senate colleague Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, are calling for more Veterans Affairs hearings on the recent COVID-19 outbreak that led to 36 deaths at the Illinois Veterans Home in La Salle.

“It has been over two months since the deadly outbreak at the La Salle Veterans Home, and we have had only two legislative hearings on the subject,” Rezin said. “The people of Illinois deserve to know how this virus was able to run rampant through the home. The Illinois Department of Public Health must tell us why it took them 12 days to conduct a site visit. There is no good reason for us not to have a hearing during lame-duck session and certainly no acceptable excuse for IDPH to refuse to testify.”

The Senate is set to convene over the weekend in Springfield for the lame-duck session.

Earlier this week, Schimpf and Rezin sent a letter to the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Tom Cullerton, to formally request that he schedule a hearing during the coming lame-duck session.

In the letter, the two senators said the purpose of this meeting would be to hear testimony from someone at the Illinois Department of Public Health who has actual decision-making authority and was in that role when the bulk of the outbreak occurred.

The senators said they are still trying to determine why it took 13 days to get a team from IDPH to the home after the outbreak was identified. Additionally, they noted that they don’t believe there should be scheduling issues with the Senate since lawmakers will be at the Capitol for session, and there shouldn’t be scheduling issues for IDPH officials either since officials from the agency spent hours at the December meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

The Veterans Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives held a hearing last month, noting that the committee would meet again to further discuss the topic. The IDPH did not have any official representation participate in that hearing.

Recently, a group of veterans advocates, including more than a dozen county Veterans Assistance Commission superintendents, La Salle County’s among them, requested the resignation of the director at the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia and Chief of Staff Anthony Kolbeck.

Derek Barichello

Derek is a Streator High and University of Illinois graduate. He worked at the Albany-Herald in Albany, Ga., and for Sauk Valley Media in Sterling, before returning to his hometown paper. He's now news editor for both the NewsTribune and The Times.