State reports new COVID-19 case at La Salle Veterans Home

Sources say resident caught it again despite vaccination

Another resident of the Illinois Veterans Home in La Salle has COVID-19, the state reported, and two sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said it’s the second time he’s had it. He has been vaccinated.

The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs website has a notifications list showing a new infection dated March 2.

“Currently, over 92% of residents at La Salle have been fully vaccinated,” said Meghan Powers, agency spokeswoman. “However, during a recent round of the home’s routine PCR testing of residents, one resident tested positive. The resident has been placed in isolation and remains the only positive resident from the latest round of testing.

“IDPH staff are in contact with the home and have confirmed all appropriate protocols were followed. The facility will continue regular testing and will monitor all residents and staff.”

However, two sources said the resident – an elderly man listed in good condition – had COVID-19 last fall, was vaccinated and now has it again.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, pledged to inquire more deeply into how the resident reacquired the virus despite getting a vaccine between occurrences.

In November, the veterans home had an outbreak of 109 cases among residents, which resulted in 36 resident deaths. Additionally, there were 116 cases among employees at the veterans home.

Rezin also renewed her calls for hearings and the release of information about the fall outbreak. Last week, Rezin introduced legislation that would require the Pritzker administration to adopt recommendations proposed after the Legionnaire’s outbreak in Quincy.

“I certainly have concerns hearing of a new infection,” Rezin said. “It just emphasizes the importance of passing legislation to make sure we have all the protocols and protections in place.”

Springfield has shown some response to calls from Rezin and state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, to address the issue.

“We are already in the process of scheduling a subject matter hearing with regards to IDVA’s nursing homes,” said state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“I submitted the request last week to our staff, and the situation of all the homes in addition to supporting HR62 (Welter’s resolution),” she said, “which would direct the auditor general to conduct a performance audit of the state’s response to the management of the COVID-19 outbreak at the La Salle Veterans Home.”

Rezin noted with displeasure a hearing is happening only in the House.

“It’s crickets in the Senate,” she said. “It’s so frustrating for me.”

Rezin also sent a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act for all communications exchanged between state agencies regarding the COVID-19 outbreak at the veterans home.

Can you still get COVID-19 after vaccination?

Studies show COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19, according to the CDC. Experts also think that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. That means it is possible a person could still get COVID-19 just after vaccination. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.

There are steps you can take to protect yourself until you can get vaccinated. Even after you get vaccinated it’s important to continue using all the tools available to remains safe during this pandemic, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.