24-year Marine leader will take charge at veterans home struck by COVID-19

LASALLE VETERANS HOME has been the site of 32 deaths caused by COVID-19.

LaSalle, IL – A 24-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps is being called upon to take charge at the Illinois veterans home where a quarter of the residents have died of COVID-19, causing a furor among the state’s politicians.

Anthony Vaughn is the new interim administrator at LaSalle Veterans Home, where the death toll was reported at 32 residents last week. He will be trying to bring the home back under control while also coping with investigations by the Illinois House, Senate and the Department of Human Services.

The home’s administrator, Angela Mehlbrech, was fired, and the director of nursing was placed on administrative leave.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs have also visited the home in north-central Illinois, one of the state’s four homes for veterans.

Vaughn was a master sergeant in the Marines, commanding an infantry rifle company, infantry battalion, helicopter squadron and vehicle maintenance battalion, was deployed in Beirut, Lebanon, and has served as an administrative chief and personnel chief. For the past 15 years, he has served the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, providing direct support to veterans across the state.

“All measures will be taken to ensure the health and well-being of the residents we serve., and we will continue to support their families and loved ones during this heart-breaking period,” Vaughn said.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the home was first discovered Nov. 1, when the home had 128 residents, and it grew in severity throughout the month.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the home has already made recommended changes to improve its safety and that now the state needs to learn from the disaster.

“Let’s figure out what went wrong so we can not only hold people accountable – which I know is what everybody is talking about – but also because we want to make changes if there are changes that need to be made at our long-term care facilities across the state or specifically at our veterans’ homes,” he said.

Pritzker said it will take several months for Illinois to get sufficient vaccine doses beyond an initial 109,000, slated to be used for health-care workers and long-term care residents in counties with the highest death rates.



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