Pritzker Slams Federal Government, Touts Illinois’ Efforts to Acquire Protective Gear

Officials urge people to stay inside, attend virtual religious services

Personal protective equipment – or PPE – is vital in the fight against COVID-19, and like many states, Illinois turned to the federal government for help acquiring the necessary items, like N95 masks, face shields and gloves to protect health care workers and first responders.

But the state has only received a fraction of what it has asked for from the strategic national stockpile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday afternoon during his daily press briefing.

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The federal government has supplied the state with 367,700 N95 masks, 1.4 million surgical masks, 693,000 gloves, 147,000 face shields, 142,000 gowns and 4,000 coveralls, according to Pritzker. “This is just a small fraction of what we need and asked for,” he said.

How much gear does the state need?

To put that into perspective, Pritzker detailed the state’s PPE burn rate, or the amount of equipment that’s being used. “Right now, we’re looking statewide at a 10-day PPE burn rate of just under 1.5 million N95 masks; 25 million gloves; 4.4 million gowns; 700,000 surgical masks – and that’s just across our hospitals and long-term care facilities,” he said, adding a small amount is set aside for law enforcement and essential state workers.

Those totals don’t include the amount of equipment that will be needed at the alternate care facility being set up at McCormick Place. Pritzker anticipates the inclusion of McCormick place will bring the 10-day PPE burn rate of surgical masks to 2 million.  

“If we had relied on the White House and its obligation to fulfill our need (for supplies), our state and nearly every other state in the U.S. would come up short and (we) could not protect our health care workers and first responders,” Pritzker said. “But here’s the good news: We haven’t trusted what we were told by the White House.”

Rather than rely on the federal government and Trump administration, Pritzker’s administration, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Emergency Management Agency have been “scouring the globe” for supplies, according to Pritzker. (He also launched a task force to secure medical supplies.)

“It’s our own state procurement that’s making a difference. …To date, we’ve ordered nearly 10 million N95 masks, over 14 million K95 masks, 7 million surgical masks, 22 million disposable general use masks, over 19 million gloves, over 5 million face shields and over 3 million gowns and more,” Pritzker said. “Take note this is not as simple as placing an order and having it arrive at your doorstep a few days later. There’s a worldwide shortage that has us racing round the clock and battling against other states and the federal government.”

Health officials on Monday reported an additional 1,006 cases of COVID-19 in the state, and 33 new deaths, bringing those totals to 12,262 and 307, respectively.

With springlike temperatures forecast for Tuesday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike again urged people to stay home. “I assure you, if people congregate tomorrow, we will set the state back in the fight against COVID-19,” she said. “Everyone’s action matter. Stay inside, if you absolutely must go out, please cover your nose and mouth.”

Pritzker reiterated that himself. “Please do not head to the lakefront. Please don’t congregate at parks,” he said. If you have a backyard, you can go outside or take a walk, but “don’t go meet people.”

With both Passover and Easter this week, Ezike said “many people are celebrating the most important event of their faith this week, but services must be held online.”

Pritzker said he understands people’s desire to worship and celebrate these holidays with their families. “This is a holy important time of year and I want very much for people to experience the spirituality that they normally would. We live in very difficult time. … and I suggest all of us think of how to use technology in order to gather or to hear our pastor, or rabbi or imam, or whoever we worship with,” he said.

“This is very important: if you’re family doesn’t live with you and you normally get together for the holidays, this is the time to look for another way to do it. I’ve heard of people using Zoom … I think we’re all going be experiencing the holidays in very unusual ways this year, but it’s very important – I cannot reiterate this enough – it is very important that you stay home.”

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

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.

Additional resources:

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

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