We have an obligation to our heroes

Op-Ed by Darren Bailey

More than two dozen Illinois veterans residing at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home have died from COVID-19. If this seems familiar, you are correct. We’ve been down this road before.

"The obligation we have to these heroes and to their families is sacred and to have that obligation so thoroughly neglected is an unconscionable moral failing. This is incompetence. It is gross mismanagement. This is what happens when a governor refuses to take charge."

This statement isn’t being made by me. It was made more than two years ago by J.B. Pritzker, who was commenting about then-Governor Bruce Rauner and the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak at the Quincy Veterans’ Home.

To date, 30 veterans have died due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, with 89 percent of the residents infected. Apparently, state government hasn’t learned its lesson.

We have a moral obligation to our veterans and Governor Pritzker is failing to live up to that obligation. As J. B. previously pointed out, the buck stops at the Governor’s office.

Sentinel Op-Ed A recent report by the U.S. The Department of Veterans Affairs, cited by the online news site The Center Square, indicated the home’s problems included ventilation problems, ineffective hand sanitizer and a Halloween party staff reportedly attended. Where were Governor’s Pritzker’s mitigation rules?

According to media reports, staff who showed positive virus test results were also allowed to work in the home’s COVID wing. It’s also been reported, it took 12 days before the Illinois Department of Public Health responded to the LaSalle Veterans’ Home outbreak. Another media report by the Associated Press indicated the outbreak first began in late October when one staff member and a resident tested positive for COVID.

Given past experience with Legionnaire’s Disease, how quickly it spread at the Quincy Veterans Home, and the rapid increase in the number of positive COVID cases statewide, state government should have been on red alert.

In fact, it was known by late May that half of the COVID deaths were in nursing homes. If these congregate living arrangements would have been a priority, the elderly vets at LaSalle Veterans’ Home could have been better protected.

I join my legislative colleagues, Senators Sue Rezin whose district is home to the LaSalle Veterans’ Home and Paul Schimpf a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War, who are calling for additional legislative hearings to get to the bottom of this crisis that threatens the lives of our heroes. Lessons learned could help protect other Illinoisans at nursing homes around the state.

Our veterans deserve better than the failed leadership Pritzker has showed. Real leadership is more than just lecturing people, it is about real results.

"After fatally mismanaging the Quincy Veterans’ Home, @BruceRauner is letting persistent health issues jeopardize the wellbeing of our nation’s heroes. This is a shameful display of failed leadership." – J.B. Pritzker, March 30, 2018, Twitter

Governor Pritzker is bold enough to hand out advice, following it is apparently a different challenge.

Darren Bailey is an Illinois State Representative from the 109th District.

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