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Gov. Pritzker activates Illinois National Guard to help with COVID-19 response

The governor’s office said Illinois National Guard members consist of medical and logistical experts to help staff hospitals, set up drive-up testing sites and help triage at hospitals.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a property tax controversy of his own.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaking at the Thompson Center on Tuesday.
Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

With Illinois on Tuesday reporting 160 coronavirus cases and one death, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has assigned duties to about 60 Illinois National Guard service members to assist the state with its COVID-19 response.

Pritzker joins several other governors who have called on the National Guard for help. The service members were assigned duties Monday, the governor’s office said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the National Guard on Friday to help with a massive ramp-up in testing for the illness, the Associated Press reported. And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced he was deploying the state’s National Guard to help with testing, distributing food and also helping to convert buildings for self-quarantining. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also activated the National Guard on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the governor’s office said Pritzker a day prior had activated about 60 Illinois National Guard service members — that includes 43 airmen from the Peoria-based 182nd Airlift Wing’s Medical Group and 17 planners and liaison officers from both Army National Guard and Air National Guard units from across the state, including medical planners.

“The activation is to assist with anticipated need for logistic support and medical staffing,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said.

Pritzker last week issued an emergency declaration that included the ability to use funds to activate the Illinois National Guard. The service members reported to duty on Monday.

Abudayyeh said the service members consist of medical and logistical experts to help staff hospitals, set up drive-up testing sites and help triage at hospitals.

The 60 service members join 40 National Guard cyber experts who are on state active duty to assist with cyber security of election networks, the governor’s office said.

As for whether the Illinois National Guard might be called to assist the state in more drastic terms — in case of a further shutdown of the state — Abudayyeh said “the situation is being monitored on an ongoing basis.”

Among the state’s 160 cases are 22 in a DuPage County nursing home, including 18 residents. Health officials for weeks have warned about the risk to elderly residents, and also those whose immune systems are compromised.

Pritzker shut down the state’s bars and restaurants to dine-in customers Monday at 9 p.m. He also advised that Illinois residents stay home from work and ordered all gatherings of over 50 people to be canceled to try to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.

The first death from a coronavirus case in Illinois was identified Tuesday as a Chicago woman in her 60’s with an underlying medical condition who had contact with someone else who had the coronavirus. The woman was not a nursing home resident. She was hospitalized at the time of her death.