Pritzker calls on retired healthcare workers to re-enter field amid pandemic
Gov. JB Pritzker called on recently retired and former healthcare workers this weekend to return to the field and help alleviate the stress on the industry caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.
Pritzker said the state will waive application fees and expedite the licensing process to help medical professionals get to work “as soon as possible.”
Expiring licenses will also automatically be extended through September.
“We’re in the middle of a battle, and we need reinforcements,” he said during a press conference Saturday.
Pritzker clarified his “call to action” during Sunday’s press conference, saying he would not want anyone who is high-risk for the virus to put themselves in danger. Those workers, he said, could assist with patients who are not being treated for COVID-19.
Pritzker also said the state would take steps to make it easier for healthcare workers who live in Illinois but practice in other states to get state licenses, noting it will help health systems in the Quad Cities and the Metro East.
State officials reported four more deaths this weekend, bringing the total in Illinois to nine. The latest deaths include a Cook County man in his 80s, a Cook County man in his 70s, a Chicago man in his 80s, and a McLean County woman in her 70s.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois grow to 1,049. Cases are now reported in 30 counties and patients range in age from younger than one to 99 years.
“Unfortunately, the number of cases will continue to increase, as will the number of deaths,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Pritzker also said he is speaking daily with suppliers and manufacturers to try to order more masks, face shields, gloves and gowns for healthcare workers and first responders.
“We’re keeping a reasonable inventory count and making sure that we’re not going to run out of these things,” he said, adding, “I believe we’re acquiring it as a reasonable rate.”
Pritzker said the state has received limited support from the federal government regarding personal protective equipment. So far, Illinois has received one-quarter of its total request for federal supplies.
He told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that the federal government has failed to provide a coordinated effort to provide equipment to states, pitting them against each other and other countries for existing supplies.
“It’s a wild west.. and indeed we’re overpaying for (personal protective equipment) because of the competition,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker reiterated the comments during an interview Monday morning on NBC News Today.
“In one case we’re competing for ventilators with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the federal government… In another case we were bidding against foreign countries and other states,” he said. “Prices 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.”
President Donald Trump responded to Pritzker on Twitter Sunday morning, saying he and several other governors should not be blaming the federal government “for their own shortcomings.”
Pritzker said during his Sunday press conference that, at a time when healthcare workers and first responders are desperate for equipment and test kits, it was insulting that the president would attack states who are trying their best to fill the void left by the indecisive federal response.
He praised Illinois Democrats and Republicans for their help over the past month, and he thanked businesses, organizations and other groups that have donated protective equipment and supplies.
“To all these organizations, know that you are providing life-saving equipment for our healthcare workers, and I thank you for that,” Pritzker said.
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