Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced the creation of a new task force designed to secure medical supplies needed by state health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus.
“Our innovative biotech companies and our state-of-the-art manufacturers are teaming up with the state of Illinois to ramp up production of personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, through a newly launched alliance: the Essential Equipment Task Force,” Pritzker said during his Monday afternoon press briefing.
Pritzker said he made a request for PPE from the federal government on March 6, and the state received its “first and only shipment” six days later. Rather than the 1.2 million masks the governor requested, the state received just 123,000 – some 10%.
News of the task force came as health officials in attendance announced three new deaths from COVID-19 in Illinois, bringing the total to 12. They also said there were 236 new cases of the virus in the state, for a total of 1,285.
To help deal with the emerging health crisis, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO) will work to ramp up in-state production of personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, gloves, gowns, sanitizer and ventilators, according to the governor’s office.
“Some manufacturers are ramping up production of current products to meet demand, while others are repurposing their facilities,” said IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler. “Liquor manufacturers are making sanitizer. Clothing manufacturers are making masks and gowns. Plastic injected molding companies are making parts for testing kits.”
Meanwhile, iBIO, which represents 85,000 life science employees statewide, is ramping up efforts to study the virus and develop ways to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19, said iBIO President and CEO John Conrad.
Both the IMA and iBIO are also organizing medical supply donation programs from their 4,000 member companies and 85,000 member employees. IEMA will direct donated supplies to heath care workers and emergency responders across the state with the most need. Anyone looking to donate personal protective equipment can send an email to the state to express their interest.
While the state’s increased manufacturing capability will be crucial in the fight against COVID-19, Pritzker said his administration continues to “scour the globe” for necessary personal protective equipment. On Monday, he announced the state has executed contracts to purchase 2.5 million N95 masks, 1 million disposable surgical masks, 11,000 gloves and 10,000 personal protection kits.
Medical facilities, like hospitals and nursing homes, have their own stocks of personal protective gear and use their own vendors to acquire additional gear, according to Pritzker. He said his procurement effort aims to supplement their existing supplies during this period of increased need.
Pritzker also called on the federal government for additional supplies and the activation of the Defense Production Act, which would vastly increase the production of essential medical supplies and their distribution to states in need, according to the governor.
In a recent conversation with President Donald Trump, Pritzker said he made a plea for additional supplies for Illinois. Pritzker said Trump was “very responsive” to that request. “I hope we’ll be able to receive those items in relatively short order,” Pritzker said.
Last week, Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order to stop the growing spread of the coronavirus across the state. The move followed other measures aimed at curbing the spread, including closing restaurants and bars to dine-in customers, and shuttering all public and private schools in the state until at least April 8. Chicago Public Schools will remain closed until April 21. While schools are closed, CPS will have grab-and-go meals available between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday to any child, regardless of whether they qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources
Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including:
—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick
Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:
—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue
If you think you have COVID-19:
Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
—Illinois’ COVID-19 website
—Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
—City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link