CHICAGO (CBS) — Twelve registered nurses who work at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago have tested positive for COVID-19.

“A limited number of these cases are believed to be due to exposure in the health care setting,” University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics CEO Michael Zenn said in a statement.

The Illinois Nurses Association, the union representing the nurses, said the hospital has failed to protect them from the coronavirus while they have been treating patients.

INA executive director Alice Johnson said nurses at University of Illinois Hospital have had to work in the COVID-19 Care Unit without sufficient protective personal equipment.

“They do not know day to day if they will have masks, gowns, gloves or goggles for that shift.  One nurse said their unit manager scolded them for wearing a mask in a room where a COVID19 positive patient was being intubated,” Johnson said.

However, the university said, while it is concerned about the availability of PPE, and is doing what it can to conserve its supplies, the hospital has not run out of any materials.

“We round daily on each of the units and have been able to meet all PPE needs. Today, we plan to implement new guidance for all employees in our inpatient and outpatient units, asking them to wear masks daily,” Zenn said.

Zenn also said all healthcare workers at the hospital have been provided guidance to use PPE as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “and in some cases we have implemented recommendations that go beyond these guidelines.”

“Most importantly, our policy for COVID-19 is that all providers who care for patients confirmed to have COVID-19 or suspected of having COVID-19 should wear PPE. There are no circumstances in which we would ask our care providers to forgo PPE when caring for COVID-19 patients,” Zenn said.

According to a message administrators sent to hospital staff, anyone working on units with COVID-19 cases, or suspected COVID-19 cases should wear N95 masks.

“We still must remember the importance of preserving our N95 mask supply for caregivers who are at highest risk. When you are not in direct patient care, wear a source control mask (e.g. surgical mask with a tie, cloth mask),” the message stated.


Megan Hickey