Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration announced the firing of Angela Mehlbrech, the director of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home where 32 veterans have died after testing positive for coronavirus since early November.
The director of nursing at the facility has also been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation into how the home handled an outbreak of the virus.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 209 individuals have been diagnosed with coronavirus at the facility since the pandemic began.
During a daily coronavirus press conference Monday, the governor said that 39 of the facility's 96 residents have active cases of coronavirus, along with 21 staff members.
Mehlbrech’s termination was announced in a press release Monday, amid a growing number of investigations and inquiries into the facility’s handling of coronavirus.
Acting Assistant Director Anthony Vaughn, a 24-year Marine veteran, will serve as acting director at the facility.
“IDVA mourns the tragedy of the veteran heroes lost to COVID-19 at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home,” he said in a statement. “We will ensure that CDC and IDPH protocols are followed and full accountability occurs for any lapses in protocols.”
Republican lawmakers have blasted Pritzker’s administration for its handling of the outbreak at the facility, demanding hearings and more transparency as investigations take place.
“The lack of urgency from this administration should be very concerning to every Illinoisan about what is happening, and we must do better,” state Rep. David Welter said.
State officials say a hand sanitizer used in patient rooms at the facility was not effective against the virus. Investigators are also looking to reports that a number of employees tested positive for the virus after attending an off-site Halloween party.
Pritzker has vowed action in connection to the outbreak, and urged the public to take mitigation measures like social distancing, mask wearing and indoor dining bans seriously.
“We have grieved for far too many of these fatal outbreaks in these nursing homes in every corner of Illinois, not to mention every corner of the nation," he said. "I’m infuriated by those who oppose proven mitigations at every turn, but now profess belated concern. The worst-case scenario, that I have tried every day to prevent, is now our reality in LaSalle.”
At least two independent investigations are currently taking place in examining the outbreak.