LaSALLE COUNTY, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs has terminated the administrator of LaSalle Veterans’ Home amid an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff.
Acting Assistant Director Anthony Vaughn will serve as the interim administrator following the termination of Administrator Angela Mehlbrech. Additionally, the director of nursing at the home has been placed on administrative leave pending the ongoing investigation.
During his daily address Monday, Governor Pritzker said the investigation will continue after 32 veterans died there to COVID-19 within the last month.
“The independent investigation into the actions of leadership and staff will continue as will our work with the Federal Veterans’ Administration experts to ensure that all of our veterans home are fully in compliance will all required health and safety measures,” Pritzker said. “We will do everything possible to safeguard the lives of our heroes.”
In their most recent tests, 39 veterans and 21 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. In the last 28 days at the facility, there have been over 200 cases. However, the outbreak began at the beginning of November.
The first veteran who contracted COVID-19 while living at the home tested positive on Nov. 1 after going to the hospital for a procedure. Routine surveillance testing the next day found 48 veterans and eight staff were also positive.
By Nov. 9, three veterans died, and by the time Federal infection control inspectors visited the facility on November 13, 63% of residents and 42% of staff tested positive.
Inspections revealed several issues at the home; including big challenges with testing results not coming back in a timely manner and breaks in infection control practices by staff. They allegedly had lax masking procedures and no social distancing.
“The worst case scenario that I have tried everyday to prevent is now a reality in LaSalle ,” Pritzker said. “To all those who have lost someone they loved, I grieve with you for the time that was stolen from you.”
Acting Assistant Director Vaughn is a 24-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, where he reached the rank of Master Sergeant and served as Administrative Chief and Personnel Chief, among other roles.
Illinois reported 8,691 new cases Monday and 90 COVID-19 deaths.