Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that the 300,000 masks sent by the federal government were not the type of masks the state needs to properly combat the coronavirus.
The Democratic governor appeared at his daily briefing alongside Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and said the state has purchased more than 5 million N95 masks and more than 5 million surgical masks, which will be arriving by the end of the week. Pritzker said he had asked the federal government to help Illinois by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 masks, but that the White House instead sent 300,000 surgical masks.
“I can say with certainty that what they sent were not the N95 masks that were promised, but were surgical masks, which were not what we asked for,” Pritzker said. “In our first request to the federal government, we asked for 1.2 million N95 masks. That was weeks and weeks ago. ... We received a fraction of what we asked for.”
Pritzker has been outspoken in his criticism of what he calls the federal government’s “profound failing” in handling the pandemic, as well as Trump’s repeated questioning of whether states really do need more equipment and assistance at the federal level.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much we need the federal government to step up and amplify the size of their PPE deliveries to Illinois, and frankly, across the nation,” Pritzker said on Monday.
On Friday, Pritzker implored the president to invoke the Defense Production Act “to put order into the market for ventilators and PPE” and “allow states on the front lines to access the equipment we need.”
The 1950 law gives the president legal power over industrial production. Trump invoked the law on Friday, ordering General Motors to produce the ventilators that hospitals desperately need.
“He needed to do this weeks ago or even yesterday, but it will still make a massive difference in our national healthcare system if he moves quickly,” Pritzker tweeted. “One way or another, we need these supplies ― and I have a whole team of people whose singular focus right now is working the phones across the world to get as much PPE, as many ventilators, and as many tests as possible shipped to Illinois.”
On Saturday, Pritzker thanked businesses and individuals for donating their own supplies and equipment to make up for the lack of federal help.
“Each mask, or gown, or set of gloves will make a difference for one of our frontline workers, and all of our donors should be proud of their part,” the governor said.
The governor also said in his briefing on Monday that the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago will be turned into a field hospital with 3,000 beds, 500 of which are expected to be ready for use by the end of this week.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike confirmed at the briefing that the state had suffered eight coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours. One person died while incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center. The numbers put Illinois’ coronavirus death toll at 73.
Lightfoot said that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Chicago is “doubling about every three to four days,” with the number of confirmed cases in Illinois currently at 5,057. More than 460 of those cases came in the last 24 hours.
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