CHICAGO (CBS) — As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois continues to surge, Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday announced biotech companies and manufacturers across the state are teaming up with the state to ramp up production of personal protective equipment.
Illinois Department of Public Health Diretor Dr Ngozi Ezike announced 236 new cases of coronavirus in Illinois, bringing the state’s total to 1,285 cases in 31 counties. Ezike also announced three more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s total to 12.
Ezike said it’s too soon to know exactly how long the governor’s “stay at home” order for Illinois must stay in place, noting that the 14-day incubation period for COVID-19 means it takes at least two to four weeks to truly measure the impact of any measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’re in this for the long haul. It’s not something that in two days we can say we’re there, but week to week we can be able to get a pretty good idea that some of these interventions have called us to fall lower than what the predicted numbers were,” she said.
Meantime, Pritzker said the Illinois Manufacturers Association will coordinate efforts by the new Essential Equipment Task Force to donate or produce essential medical supplies that are FDA approved and sterilized; such as N95 masks, surgical masks, protective gowns, and more.
“We’re not just waiting for in-state production. My administration continues to work day and night to scour the globe and the global supply chain,” Pritzker said.
The governor said the state has executed new contracts for 2.5 million N95 masks, 1 million surgical masks, 11,000 gloves, and 10,000 single-use personal protection kits, which will supplement stockpiles already held by Illinois hospitals and the city of Chicago. Pritzker would not discuss how much the state is paying with those supplies, saying it could hamper negotiations with other companies.
Businesses willing to donate PPE supplies also can contact the state at email@example.com.
Pritzker said the state also has requested a shipment of PPE from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile, but so far has received only one shipment, amounting to only a fraction of its request.
“I want to be clear, thanks to the willingness of Illinois’ manufacturers to support our state efforts, thanks to private and public donations, thanks to experienced public servants inside the federal agencies and the military, thanks to the incredible pursuit of this supply chain by our Illinois Emergency Management Agency, our Illinois Department of Public Health, and members of my own governor’s office, Illinois is acquiring PPE to compensate for what we haven’t received in our federal requests,”
However, the governor said the state is still running into obstacles that shouldn’t exist, because states are now competing against each other to get needed supplies on the open market.
Pritzker again called on President Donald Trump to implement the Defense Production Act to require private companies to mass produce needed medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor said he spoke to President Donald Trump directly on Monday about the state’s need for N95 masks and ventilators.
“As you know, it’s very important that we acquire as man of these as we can. I have called for him to invoke the National Defense Production Act, and actually utilize it, because I know he’s invoked it but not utilized it in any industry,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker also said he’s called ventilator manufacturers, and one told him he’s competing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to acquire ventilators. He said another manufacturer told him Illinois also is competing with other countries, and should put in as big an order as possible to get higher on the priority list for ventilators.
“So I’m competing against the federal government to get ventilators for the state of Illinois, and the federal government is not distributing ventilators to the state of Illinois. So I’m literally working against a competitor,” he said. “Here I’m competing with my own federal government, and I’m competing with countries outside the United States to get things that we need to keep our people safe and healthy.”
Pritzker said, while the president told him he didn’t like the idea of invoking the Defense Production Act he did ask what Illinois needs, and offered to work on it.
“It seems like he’s being very responsive to what I asked for, and I hope that we’ll be able to receive those items in relatively short order,” he said.
The governor and Illinois National Guard Adjutant General, Brigadier Gen. Richard Neely, also tried to dispel rumors that the state is using armed members of the National Guard to enforce his “stay at home order.”
“We are not doing any policing action, we’re not doing any kind of work at all like that. What we are doing is supporting testing. Within the Rosemont area this week, we just stood up a new testing facility. We had 100 personnel that are taking care of testing,” he said.
Neely said those personnel are professional doctors, nurses, and other medical and logistics staff to manage testing of first responders for COVID-19. He said members of the National Guard also are helping to warehouse and distribute large orders of personal protective equipment; and helping to assess shuttered hospitals as possible overflow sites if additional capacity is needed to treat coronavirus patients who require hospitalization.
“So you’ll see trucks around the Chicagoland area. You’ll see when we show up in camouflage, we tend to draw a crowd, but we’re not bringing weapons, we’re not bringing anything like that, we’re bringing our professional skills to help out,” Neely said.