Illinois Governor JB Pritzker says state agencies and local manufacturers are mobilizing to get much-needed medical equipment to hospitals and workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 are now confirmed in Illinois as the virus continues to spread, leading to skyrocketing demand for medical devices like ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard those on the front lines.
Some recent cases of those infected in Chicago include emergency personnel like police officers and paramedics. Members of the medical community also told WGN they are having to reuse masks after working their shifts, which can pose a major cross-contamination risk.
“I have medical professionals and first responders begging for things that they need to keep them safe,” Pritzker said Monday during his daily update on state efforts to combat COVID-19.
Pritzker continued his criticism of the federal response to the novel coronavirus, which sparked a back-and-forth with President Trump over the weekend. In a tweet, Trump said governors, “shouldn’t be blaming the federal government for their own shortcomings.”
Watch Above: Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, health leaders give their daily update about the novel coronavirus in the state
On Monday, Pritzker outlined the differences in how much of each type of equipment the state requested from the federal government, and how much it received from the country’s National Strategic Stockpile.
In a release, Pritzker said to date Illinois has asked for 2.3 million N95 masks, and received 246,000. When it came to respirators, he said they asked for 4,000, and received none.
Facing massive shortfalls in supply, Pritzker said states are left to fend for themselves and order equipment directly from manufacturers. This leads to a scenario, Pritzker said, where states are competing against both each other and other countries on the open market.
“It’s the federal government’s job to make sure that a nurse being properly equipped in Illinois doesn’t come at the cost of a doctor being ready for work in California,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said President Trump should use the Defense Production Act to get manufacturers to make the supplies needed by states. He said when they spoke Monday morning, Trump seemed “very responsive” and eager to work towards a solution.
In a release issued Monday, state officials said they were able to purchase 2.5 million N95 masks, 1 million disposable surgical masks, 11,000 gloves and 10,000 personal protection kits.
Additionally, Pritzker announced a new partnership with two industry groups, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) and the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO).
The organizations say many of their members have agreed to organize donation efforts, as well as shift production to medical supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“America is facing extraordinary times that rival some of the greatest challenges in our nation’s history. While the task is daunting, manufacturers stand ready to once again answer our nation’s call, conquering obstacles and leading the way forward,” Illinois Manufacturers’ Association President Mark Denzler said in a statement.
Individuals are stepping up as well. Community-led donation efforts have collected hundreds of masks and other PPE for those on the front lines.
Any businesses or individuals looking to donate unopened (not homemade) equipment can also do so through a new website launched by the state.
Pritzker also said the state has received an unprecedented number of unemployment claims, enough to crash the state’s system. After it was moved to a bigger server over the weekend, people can still apply online.