Pritzker Says Fed Broke Promise, Ezike Says Prisons Are High Risk For COVID-19 Spread

By Benjamin Cox on March 30, 2020 at 6:30pm

Governor J.B. Pritzker said he got a disappointing PPE shipment from the federal government yesterday. Pritzker said that President Donald Trump personally promised him 300,000 N95 masks for first responders in Illinois but that didn’t come in the third shipment of supplies from the federal government. “Our third federal shipment arrived yesterday. Our team at IEMA is sorting through this delivery now and we’ll make sure that those resources are delivered where they’re needed as soon as possible. I will say this federal shipments still pales in comparison to our requests and appears to be even smaller than our previous two shipments from the federal government. My team is sorting through the shipment of 300,000 what is believed to be N95 masks the White House personally told me would be sent to our state. And while we do not have a final count on this yet, I can say with certainty that what they sent were not the N95 masks that were promised, but instead were surgical masks, which is not what we asked for.”

With the news of a positive case in Stateville Prison today, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who once worked in a correctional facility prior to becoming the head of the Department of Public Health said that extra measures are being taken in Illinois’ prisons to stop the quick spread of the virus once introduced inside. “Congregate settings, such as Stateville or any other Correctional Center, pose unique challenges and stopping the spread of disease, and protecting the health of individuals who live and work there. Ideally, all cases should be isolated individually and close contact should be quarantined individually. I know our partners at the Department of Corrections are working innovatively to try to create the best situations for these facilities. But some correctional facilities and detention centers do not have enough individual cells. And so, we’re considering isolating multiple laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases together as a group, or quarantine in close context of a particular case together as a group. Additionally, incarcerated individuals may have medical conditions that further increase the risk of disease from the COVID-19 [virus].”

Ezike says that incarcerated individuals are being tested if they show symptoms of the virus. She said that correctional officers and workers in prisons are using PPE in dealing with inmates in the general population. She says that similar measures are being taken at long-term care facilities and nursing homes throughout the state.

Dr. Ezike said that the reason why not all people have been tested was because of the shortage of the number of tests in the state. She said that high-risk populations and all hospitalized patients need tested for the virus. “We were trying to have a priority scheme in terms of using our limited resources, but we definitely want all hospitalized patients to be tested. We want our seniors, especially those with the pre-existing conditions – you know the people with high blood pressure, lung disease, diabetes, those on dialysis, cancer patients, even pregnant people fall onto that list. Anyone who is high risk, that person should get tested.”

Illinois Department of Public Health said today that there were 460 new reported positive cases along with 8 more deaths in the state, bringing the total number of positive cases to over 5000. Pritzker said that the lower total of cases today is attributed to the different reporting criteria from commercial laboratories. Pritzker and Ezike both said that commercial labs can take up to 4 to 7 days to get results. Pritzker said that he will continue to consult experts and look at trends to see if Illinois is on the plateau of the curve of rising positive cases.