Report released on state's response to deadly COVID outbreak at Lasalle Veterans' Home

A report released Thursday morning by the Illinois Auditor General found the Illinois Department of Public Health left the Lasalle Veterans' Home hanging out to dry in several ways when it came to controlling the COVID-19 outbreak that killed three dozen residents between November 2020 and January 2021.

But Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the report doesn't tell the whole story.

"We saw him the day before [he died] through the window," said Leslie Lamb, who lost her father in the outbreak. "That was our goodbye."

Lamb's father, Korean War Veteran Richard Cieski, was one of 36 residents of the Lasalle Veterans' Home who died after COVID swept through the facility in November 2020.

"Losing my dad was devastating in itself, not to mention that the horrific way he died and the horrific way all the veterans that were with him died," Lamb said.

A report by the Illinois Auditor General found that the Illinois Department of Public Health "did not offer advice or assistance" to the facility in slowing the spread, did not offer to provide COVID tests and used a testing procedure that was slower than necessary.


"Frankly, it's more of the same, and it's not surprising to me," said Mike Bonamarte, Managing Partner of Levin & Perconti who filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of families who lost loved ones.  "I'm frustrated that — our families are frustrated that — they are getting anything but swift justice."

But Pritzker defended IDPH, saying the outbreak came at a time before vaccines, when Republican lawmakers were downplaying the severity of the virus, and that the department followed CDC guidelines at every step.  

"At that time, IDPH was not visiting nursing homes in person because the threat of unintentionally spreading COVID was significantly greater than the potential benefit of a visit,' Pritzker said.

Bonamarte calls this report more "finger-pointing" among politicians.  

A settlement is pending for the families he is representing.