Springfield, IL – It’s not easy being Governor Bruce Rauner these days. He’s already facing strong opposition to his re-election because of his anti-union policies. Republicans are backing away from him over an abortion law that he signed, and he has drawn a primary opponent in his own party.
And now he has to explain how his administration mishandled the outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease, now being called “Legionella,” that have killed 13 retirees at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy and sickened dozens more.
The first outbreak of the water-borne bacteria was in July 2015, but the state was slow to react. Various accounts indicate the Illinois Department of Public Health knew about it on Aug. 5, with a second case appearing Aug. 21 of that year. The second man was not tested until Aug. 27 – two days after Rauner stopped in for a photo op – and the man died on Aug. 31.
Now his family and families of nine others have sued, saying the Veterans Home knew of the outbreak in July but did not notify the residents or their families.
The problems surfaced after about six more cases of Legionnaire’s were reported this year.
“When’s it going to stop?” said Jana Casper, daughter of one of the 2015 victims, World War II veteran Gerald Kuhn, the Associated Press reported. “How many more people are going to have to die before they can get to the bottom of what’s causing it?”
Democrats including J.B. Pritzker, the leading Democratic candidate for governor endorsed by the Illinois AFL-CIO, are demanding an independent investigation into how the problems were handled and that the remaining veterans be moved out of the home while work is completed on a new veterans’ home in the Chicago area. That project has been delayed because of budget problems.
“The obligation we have to these heroes and their families is sacred, and to have that obligation so thoroughly neglected is an unconscionable moral failing,” Pritzker said.
Rauner issued a statement expressing his concern about the veterans.