Legionnaires’ disease has hit Quincy facility
Gov. Bruce Rauner has moved into the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy for several days, a response to reports of ongoing outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease there.
Rauner’s office said Thursday that the goal is to get a better understanding of the facility where 13 residents have died of the disease since 2015.
“The governor is in Quincy staying at the Illinois Veterans Home,” Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said in a statement.
“He plans to spend several days there with the residents and staff. He wants to gain a more thorough understanding of the clinical, water-treatment and residential operations of the home.”
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported that Rauner checked into the home shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday and spent the night. Rauner’s office confirmed Thursday that First Lady Diana Rauner will spend the weekend at the facility with the governor.
The Quincy home has been in the spotlight since radio station WBEZ in Chicago reported on the history of Legionnaires’ disease at the facility.
The disease is caused by a bacteria in water and water vapor. There was a major outbreak in 2015 that left 12 residents dead. Cases have also been reported in 2016 and 2017.
The state spent more than $6 million to upgrade water systems in the home, but much of the plumbing is still a century old.
Rauner has said he thinks the water at the veterans home is safe to use. However, he ignited a new round of criticism this week when he told the Joliet Herald-News editorial board that Legionnaires’ bacteria is in most water systems and that cases of illness have been reported elsewhere.
“These things happen,” he said.
Rauner’s primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, called Rauner’s move to the facility “a cynical and transparent publicity stunt.”
“The conditions in the Illinois Veterans Home, as well as the delayed response from the Rauner administration, are betrayals of our veterans and the benefits they earned protecting our freedoms,” Ives said in a statement. “This is what happens when the governor isn’t in charge, as he said.”
However, state Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said she thinks is it a positive move by the Rauner.
“It’s a valuable learning experience to see what I think is a state-of-the-art filtration and water treatment system,” she said. “Now he’ll have a better, in-depth, first-hand understanding of it.”
Since stories about the outbreaks first aired, a number of lawmakers have visited the facility to get a first-hand assessment of the situation.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, was scheduled to tour the home and meet with staff on Friday. He was expected to be joined by representatives of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Next week, House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committees will hold a joint hearing on the situation.