CHRONICLE: Key Rauner aide took leave to campaign during Legionnaire’s crisis

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New revelations show that a key Rauner aide took leave from his job to campaign for Republican candidates during the state’s Legionnaire’s crisis at a Quincy veterans’ home.

The aide, Erik Rayman, served as chief-of-staff of the Illinois Department of Public Health. The agency is charged with ensuring that health and safety standards are upheld and their purview would include the veterans’ home.

Governor Bruce Rauner, when asked about the absence of the staffer during a critical time, was unconcerned and said there had been no new cases in “quite a while” when Rayman took leave. However, records show three cases were diagnosed just two months before.

Last month, four new cases of Legionnaire’s have been confirmed at the home, which has killed thirteen residents since the outbreak began in 2015.

Criticism from the public, media, and legislators of the Rauner response to outbreaks of the disease in the past few years at the Illinois Veterans’ Home has been dogging Rauner in recent months.

The Rauner Administration waited six days to disclose what they knew was the beginning of a major outbreak. A public health expert, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Center for Health Security in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the Rauner administration’s six-day delay informing the public about the outbreak was “inexcusable” and “mind-boggling.”

Additionally, on three separate occasions, Rauner’s administration failed to tell staff at the home about outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. Instead, staff learned of the outbreak through news reports.

Both the House and Senate have voted for a resolution calling on Rauner to issue a full report of the administration’s response to the outbreaks. It requests the report include what officials “knew and when they knew it.”

The outbreaks began in 2015, causing 13 deaths and sickening more than 60 people. In recent weeks, four new cases of the disease have been confirmed at the veterans’ home.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, have also called on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to play a more active role in the investigation and control of the outbreaks, due to the Rauner failure to respond quickly.

“Despite their assertions otherwise, it has become abundantly clear that Illinois’ current administration has failed to adequately address this crisis in a timely fashion. As a result, the lives of veterans living at IVH Quincy — not to mention staff working at the facility and families visiting the facility — have either been put at risk, or lost,” they wrote to Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC acting director, according to the Quincy Herald-Whig.

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