Three more Illinois coronavirus deaths announced; Pritzker also details medical equipment shortages

Besides the rising number of cases — which officials attributed to increased testing — the governor discussed where he said the federal government had fallen short in filling requests for medical and protective gear.

SHARE Three more Illinois coronavirus deaths announced; Pritzker also details medical equipment shortages
Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a daily briefing in March 2020.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been holding daily briefings on Illinois’ response to the coronavirus situation.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Illinois officials on Monday announced three more people have died from the novel coronavirus, while Gov. J.B. Pritzker also publicly outlined the state’s federal requests for personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, including respirators for some of the most serious cases.

After several national television appearances in which Pritzker pointed the finger at President Donald Trump and his administration for a lack of medical essentials, Pritzker detailed those requests while also announcing the partnership of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization to ramp up in-state production of supplies like masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators and sanitizers.

“I have medical professionals and first responders begging for what they need,” Pritzker said.

Despite the outlining of his requests and push for more federal help, the Democratic governor said he spoke directly to President Donald Trump on Monday afternoon, a call that prompted the governor to call the president “very responsive.”

Also at the state’s daily briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Illinois, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced the deaths of three more people from the coronavirus.

An additional 236 confirmed cases have been added to the state’s total, Ezike said, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 1,285 cases in 31 counties. The ages range from an infant, to 99 years, Ezike said. So far, 12 people in Illinois have died from coronavirus.

Ezike said about 15 to 20% of the cases have required hospitalization, with about 5% of those patients also requiring intensive care.

Pritzker’s announcement of a task force to bulk up Illinois production of essentials will include repurposing facilities to make products and organizing medical supply donation programs. The governor also implored any tattoo parlors, nail salons or elective surgery centers to donate supplies to the state. Illinois also is receiving offers from private groups to donate protective gear to the state, he said.

At his daily COVID-19 briefing, Pritzker displayed charts showing the difference between what has been requested from the federal government, and what has been received.

For instance, they asked for 1.2 million N-95 masks, but received 123,000, Pritzker said.

According to the governor’s office, while the state has requested 2.34 million total N95 face masks from the federal government, it has received just 10.5% of that request — 246,860 masks. Illinois has also requested 4,000 respirators and has received none. Those requests were made collectively on March 6 and March 20, the governor’s office said.

“Thanks to the willingness of Illinois manufacturers . . . Illinois is acquiring [protective gear] to compensate for what we haven’t received in our federal request,” Pritzker said.

If the federal government filled their requests using the Defense Production Act, it also would keep prices from being driven up as various states competed with each other for the scarce supplies, he added.

Phone call with the president

Pritzker said he made that point clear to Trump on the phone. Pritzker told the president that in a phone call to a ventilator manufacturer, he was told he was competing with FEMA to acquire ventilators. In another example, Pritzker said a ventilator manufacturer told him he would be competing with other countries. The governor was told to “put in as big an order as possible in order to put myself higher on the list of priority to get ventilators.”

“The president was very responsive, frankly. ... He didn’t so much like the idea of invoking the Defense Production Act but he did say, ‘What do you need? Let me see if I can get that for you.’ And I gave him some numbers. I told him, oh, we had ordered from the government already, and he said, ‘Let me work on that,’” Pritzker said. “It seems like he’s being very responsive to what I asked for and I hope that we’ll be able to recieve those items in relatively short order.”

During an appearance on Monday morning on NBC’s “Today Show,” the governor said the state is bidding for ventilators against the federal government — and Illinois is bidding against foreign countries and other states for equipment needed to treat the pandemic.

“Price are being ratcheted up and we’re competing against each other on what should be a national crisis where we should be coming together and the federal government should be leading, helping us,” Pritzker said on NBC.

The Democratic governor’s angry words on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning about the lack of needed protective personal equipment from the federal government prompted a response from Trump himself.

Tweeting to Pritzker’s political account, the president said Pritzker “and a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News @CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!”

The response prompted more anger from Pritzker.

“You wasted precious months when you could’ve taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans. You should be leading a national response instead of throwing tantrums from the back seat. Where were the tests when we needed them? Where’s the PPE? Get off Twitter & do your job,” Pritzker tweeted.

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