Illinois needs thousands more ventilators than the federal government plans to send and the state is desperately searching for more before its expected peak in coronavirus cases later this month, the governor said Sunday, hours before officials announced the number of people to test positive in the state more than doubled in a week.
Appearing on CNN's “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he requested 4,000 ventilators from the federal government last Tuesday and has received 450, far short of even the 1,400 ventilators that Vice President Mike Pence said the state needs.
Pritzker, who has been critical of the Trump administration'shandling of the pandemic, disputed the president's claim that many states were unprepared.
"If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems that we have today, and frankly, very many fewer people would die,” Pritzker said.
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Pritzker continued the same theme at his daily press briefing in which the state's public health director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, announced that the number of coronavirus cases had climbed since Saturday by 899 to 11,256 and the number of coronavirus-related deaths rose during the same period by 31 to 274.
The Trump administration “did nothing for a long time” even after, he said, it received intelligence briefings in January warning that the virus was heading toward the United States.
“It's just wrong what's happened,” said Pritker, saying that a quicker federal response to the virus would certainly have saved lives.
On the television program, Pritzker said the government's recent actions may be too late for Illinois.
"The president didn't enact the use of the Defense Production Act until just recently," Pritzker said. Trump has urged General Motors to speed up production of ventilators under the act.
But, ”when you talk to GM they will tell you, great, we're hoping to produce ventilators, mostly in May and June. ... But in the latter half of April, when we think we might be peaking, there are no ventilators available."
Underlining the state’s desperate need, the governor said: “Now, we’re looking everywhere and anywhere across the world to get ventilators.”
Pritzker warned that plans to move ventilators from New York to other virus hot spots after cases peak in that state may come too late.
“New York does not look like it will be coming off its peak by the time we're hitting our peak,” he said.
And while the governor said he hopes Illinois only needs 4,000 ventilators, in one worst-case scenario the state may actually require more than 7,000.
“We’re looking at all of the numbers and everybody is taking an educated guess because we really don’t know — this virus is unpredictable,” Pritzker said.
On Saturday, the state's Department of Public Health said in a press release that Illinois had 10,357 confirmed positive cases and 243 deaths across 68 counties.
Pritzker, who has issued a statewide stay-at-home order, on Friday recommended for the first time that people wear face coverings whenever they leave their homes.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, or death.