Twelve registered nurses who work at the University of Illinois Hospital have tested positive for coronavirus, the hospital confirmed Friday, noting "a limited number of these cases are believed to be due to exposure in the health care setting."
The hospital released a statement confirming the positive cases after the nurses' union, the Illinois Nurses Association, blamed the new cases on a lack of personal protective equipment for medical workers and safer working conditions.
“These nurses served patients on the front line of the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic and risked their lives to make sure patients received proper care,” said Alice Johnson, Illinois Nurses Association executive director, in a statement. “We hoped their hospital and their government would protect them, but they failed."
Johnson said in the statement that nurses have been working in the hospital's COVID Care Unit without personal protective equipment.
The hospital said in its statement that supplies have not run out and medical professionals have received guidance to use PPE.
"We round daily on each of the units and have been able to meet all PPE needs," the hospital said. "Today, we plan to implement new guidance for all employees in our inpatient and outpatient units, asking them to wear masks daily."
The nurses' union painted a different picture of working conditions.
“They do not know day to day if they will have masks, gowns, gloves or goggles for that shift," Johnson said. "One nurse said their unit manager scolded them for wearing a mask in a room where a COVID-19 positive patient was being intubated."
The hospital said, "there are no circumstances in which we would ask our care providers to forgo PPE when caring for COVID-19 patients."
"All care providers at UI Health haven been provided guidance to use personal protective equipment as recommended by the CDC and in some cases we have implemented recommendations that go beyond these guidelines," the hospital said in a statement. ?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."
Illinois health officials on Friday said the state saw an increase of 488 coronavirus cases overnight, lifting the state total to 3,026 with 34 deaths.
The cases have been reported in more than three dozen counties across the state and patients range in age from less than 1 year old to 99 years old. Among counties reporting their first cases Friday were Bureau, Henry and Iroquois.
Illinois also reported eight new deaths in the last day.
According to data as of Friday, 86% of the state's fatalities so far have been in patients 60 years of age of older.
The uptick comes on the sixth day of the state's stay-at-home order, which remains in effect until April 7.