(The Center Square) – While Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said there’s an ongoing inspector general investigation of the handling of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home COVID-19 outbreak, there’s bipartisan support for a separate investigation.

There is also legislation to require state public health officials to visit the site of a disease outbreak at a state-run facility as “soon as practical.”

Last fall, a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home killed 36. The outbreak began Nov. 1, 2020, and quickly spread, sickening nearly everyone.

A timeline from several legislative hearings showed a site visit by federal officials found COVID-19 protocols were not being followed, including hand sanitizer that was ineffective against COVID-19 being used and lax employee behavior. The state didn’t conduct an onsite visit for nearly two weeks after the outbreak.

In January, Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Linda Chapa LaVia stepped down.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she has a bill that would require a site visit after an outbreak.

“The failure to go onsite in a timely fashion negatively impacted the state’s response to the COVID outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans' Home,” she said at a news conference Monday.

Senate Bill 2251 would require state public health officials to conduct a site visit when an outbreak is confirmed “as soon as practical.”

The Pritzker administration is ignoring the recommendation of a previous Auditor General’s report recommending quicker onsite visits following the Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Quincy home several years ago, Rezin said.

“If they would have implemented the recommendation, we would not have had this massive outbreak which has caused the deadliest outbreak in this state in the history of state facilities in Illinois,” Rezin said.

By comparison, the Legionnaires' outbreak over three years at the Quincy home killed 13. The COVID-19 outbreak last fall in LaSalle killed at least 36 veterans in a matter of weeks.

State Rep. David Welter, R-Morris, joined Rezin in a virtual news conference Monday. He said what happened in LaSalle was unacceptable.

“The state’s lackluster response prolonged the outbreak at the LaSalle home,” Welter said. “It unnecessarily cost the lives of our nation’s heroes.”

And while the governor has said an inspector general is investigating what happened, Welter is pushing for the Illinois Auditor General to investigate.

“[The auditor general] is an independent party who is impartial on this and not being paid or hired by the governor and I do believe that it will have bipartisan support in the House and the Senate,” Welter said.

Welter's House resolution, HR 62, is supported by state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

A Veterans' Affairs Committee scheduled for Tuesday was canceled.

“I'm committed to working with my fellow legislators to ensure our Veterans are properly taken care of and work to mandate best practices for the safety and welfare of our Veterans in our Veterans Homes,” Kifowit said in a statement

She said the Tuesday committee hearing was canceled because the sponsor of the only posted bill in the committee wasn't "ready to inspect."

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.