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Coronavirus Update: Illinois' COVID-19 cases reach 1,535, 16 deaths; hospitals prepare for patient influx

ABC 7 Chicago logo ABC 7 Chicago 3/25/2020 Alexis McAdams
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Hospitals across the state are working to open up more bed space and get much needed personal protective equipment as health officials anticipate an influx of COVID-19 patients. Governor JB Pritzker even said he would be willing to use some of his personal fortune to help acquire the PPE if need be.

On Tuesday, the governor announced that the number of coronavirus cases in Illinois has risen to 1,535, with 16 deaths.

Coronavirus Illinois Update: Latest news on 1,535 COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact

Rush University Medical Center is just one of the hospitals preparing for an influx of COVID-19 patients. The facility has converted the lobby into additional clinical space as part of a statewide effort to increase the bed count.

Other hospitals also doing their part to prepare, but one CEO said that alone won't be enough to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

"As you are depending on us, we are depending on you. We're depending on you to remain in place, to shelter in place; we're depending on you to maintain a social distance and we are mostly depending on you to wash your hands," said Dr. Omar Lateef at Rush University Medical Center.

Officials said the state's total number of hospital beds, both standard and intensive care, were already more than half occupied as of Tuesday.

"We've expanded our emergency department," Dr. Lateef said. "We've transformed entire units into COVID hospitals, like mini units that are designed to take care of patients, specifically with this disease."

The governor put the situation in perspective by displaying graphs at his daily coronavirus update press conference.

"In a worst case scenario surge, the state would turn existing hospitals into almost entirely COVID-19 response hospitals, moving non-COVID patients to other hospitals, including these re-outfitted locations," Governor JB Pritzker said.

Hospital Beds:

ICU Beds:

Ventilators:

In addition to asking hospitals to expand their capacity, the state has been looking at reopening closed hospitals like Metro South Hospital in Blue Island. State officials are also looking into using hotels as quarantine centers, something Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Chicago will be doing in her Monday press conference.

"In two weeks we would need over 28,000 additional non-ICU beds and over 9400 additional ICU beds, that's untenable," Gov. Pritzker said.

He also pointed out that after his plea for medical professionals who have left the field to return to duty, more than 180 people have sent in applications in less than 24 hours.

While the state works to prepare the healthcare system, Pritzker added that his "stay-at-home" order, earlier closure of schools, bars and restaurants are helping stave off a tsunami of patients.

When asked if he'd extend the "stay-at-home" order past April 7 he responded, "I'm trying to follow the science here, and I am concerned that we may have to extend that deadline."

"The question that everyone wants answered right now is how long is all of this going to last," Pritzker said. "The honest answer is we don't yet know."

Pritzker added that he disagreed with talk by President Trump and others about lifting national guidelines that are keeping people from work.

"I don't think he's listening to the science," Gov. Pritzker said. "I think he is operating, you know, he's looking at the stock market, which I know he essentially judges himself by."

Early on in the COVID-10 pandemic Pritzker asked the federal government for more supplies to protect the first responders and health care workers, and has once again reached out for assistance.

The governor's plea for personal protective gear led to a phone call with President Donald Trump Monday about acquiring more personal protective gear, coming just 24 hours after their Twitter battle over the lack of federal help during the Coronavirus crisis.

Weeks into the battle against the coronavirus, state leaders say the federal government has filled just a fraction of Illinois' requests for masks, gloves and other PPE.

Pritzker stated that until this week they only received one shipment of supplies they requested back on March 6, three days before the state's disaster proclamation. He said the initial shipment of 123,000 N95 masks was only 10 percent of the 1.2 million they requested.

Illinois has been left to acquire that critical gear on its own for their first responders and medical professionals.

RELATED: Chicago Police Department low on PPE to protect officers from coronavirus

"He returned my call a little after noon and I spoke with him directly about our need for N95 masks and for ventilators," Pritzker said.

"I spoke with JB Pritzker, called me today," President Trump said. "We're going to be helping them out in Illinois."

The governor said weeks ago, the state requested four-thousand respirators from the federal government. So far, the state has received not a single one.

RELATED: Coronavirus Illinois: What is and isn't allowed during a stay-at-home order

Pritzker praised the community, touting the biotech companies and state-of-the-art manufacturers who have used their innovation and teamwork with the state to ramp up the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) with a newly launched alliance for the Essential Equipment Task Force.

He said the Illinois Manufacturers Association is coordinating manufacturers interested in donating or producing essential supplies that are FDA approved and sterilized, things like N95 masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators, sanitizers, face masks and more.

Many of them are also repurposing their facilities to in order to meet critical demand.

"Some manufacturers are ramping up production of current products while others are repurposing their facilities to meet the need. Liquor manufacturers are making sanitizer. Clothing manufacturers are making masks and gowns," said Mark Denzler, Illinois Manufacturers' Association.

The Essential Equipment Task Force will work with the emergency management agency to scale up to mass production of the FDA-approved PPE that Illinois healthcare workers need.

"I'm incredibly proud of these Illinois organizations for stepping up to this moment," Pritzker said.

He announced several new PPE contracts, including 2.5 million N95 masks, 1 million disposable surgical masks, 11,000 gloves, and 10,000 single-use personal protection kits.

As the supply of masks gloves, and other gear grows thin for first responders, companies like Magid Glove and Safety are stepping in.

"Our purpose as company has always been to keep workers safe and at this point it is about keeping our community safe," said CEO Greg Cohen.

The family owned and operated company has donated $50,000 worth of n95 masks and gloves to help those on the front lines of the pandemic.

"So far we have donated almost 38,000 masks and over 115,000 gloves to first responders and doctors all over Illinois," Cohen said.

Those who would like to help by donating PPE should contact PPE.Donations@Illinois.gov.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.

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