Illinois to bolster in-state production of protective equipment
Illinois will launch a task force aimed at bolstering the state’s supply of personal protective equipment, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday.
The state is partnering with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization to create the group, which will work to ramp up in-state production of N95 masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators and sanitizers, as well as medical equipment and medicines.
“I cannot overstate how crucial this manufacturing capability will be in our fight against COVID-19,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker said Monday that 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. The equipment is expected to start arriving in the coming days. Pritzker declined to provide the cost, citing pending negotiations with other suppliers.
At a time when hospitals’ equipment supplies are “tight,” the governor’s proposals are an important step in ensuring that healthcare workers are properly equipped to treat patients, said Illinois Health and Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun.
“It is a huge and important step that the governor has taken in procuring personal protective equipment for healthcare workers,” he told Health News Illinois Monday afternoon. IHA joined other health groups last week in a plea to construction companies, dentists and veterinarians to donate their protective equipment.
The focus on producing products in state comes as Illinois officials continue to raise concerns about the amount of equipment that has been provided by the federal government.
Pritzker said the state has requested more than 2.3 million N95 masks from the strategic national stockpile and has received 246,860. Illinois also received a fraction of their request for gloves, gowns, face shields and surgical masks, though it did receive more than 90 percent of its requested face masks.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has distributed more than 28,400 N95 masks, more than 15,500 pairs of gloves and nearly 6,200 gowns to over a dozen county health departments with the most need. The Illinois Department of Public Health has also distributed supplies to 150 hospitals and 62 local health departments across Illinois,
While Pritzker engaged in a public spat with President Donald Trump over personal protective equipment over the weekend, he struck a different tone during his Monday press conference. Pritzker said he spoke with Trump Monday afternoon about the need for masks and ventilators and urged him to utilize the Defense Production Act to begin mass production of the equipment.
Trump seemed receptive to the state’s needs and promised to work to send additional equipment to Illinois, Pritzker said. The hope is the equipment will be received in the coming days, according to the governor.
Officials announced three more deaths on Monday, bringing the total to 12. All three deaths were in Cook County: two men in their 80s and one man in his 90s.
There were 236 more positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the total confirmed cases in Illinois to 1,285 in 31 counties. Monroe County reported its first case.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said roughly 15 to 20 percent of state residents who test positive have required hospitalization, which follows national and global trends. About 5 percent require intensive care, and a portion of those require ventilators.
Pritzker also said he wants to make sure federal aid is made available to community health centers, and he said he would work with the state’s congressional delegation to get language included in a stimulus package.
Illinois Primary Health Care Association CEO Jordan Powell told Health News Illinois last week that centers have had to reschedule medical and dental preventive visits, which have caused significant financial strain.
Officials said they are so far in “decent shape’ regarding hospital bed capacity, and they are retrofitting existing bed space to serve COVID-19 patients. Pritzker said more information will be provided during Tuesday’s media briefing.
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