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WBEZ: COVID-19 Has Killed 8 Illinois Healthcare Workers And Sickened 2,500
Apr 23, 2020

WBEZ: COVID-19 Has Killed 8 Illinois Healthcare Workers And Sickened 2,500

WBEZ: COVID-19 Has Killed 8 Illinois Healthcare Workers And Sickened 2,500

By Tony Arnold, Dave McKinney
Wednesday, April 22, WBEZ

Driven by more testing, Illinois reported its highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, April 22, and state public-health officials revealed for the first time the pandemic has killed eight healthcare workers statewide and sickened 2,500 others.

Gov. JB Pritzker and his administration have spent tens of millions of dollars to help quell the severe shortage of personal protection equipment in healthcare facilities as the public health crisis has expanded within Illinois’ borders.

But the true consequences of not having enough masks, gowns and other protective gear hadn’t been known until Wednesday, when state Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike divulged how many Illinois healthcare workers have contracted coronavirus and died from it.

“That could be anyone that works in a healthcare establishment. So it could be a nurse, a nurse practitioner, a respiratory therapist. It could be the front desk staff at a clinic. It could be a long-term care facility worker,” Ezike said.

In announcing the data, Ezike noted the numbers are not a perfect accounting of how many healthcare sector workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, considering that the state public health department accumulates the information from what hospitals report — it doesn’t collect the data itself.

A union representing thousands of Illinois nurses characterized the disclosure as tragic but not surprising considering the ferocity of the coronavirus and the shortages of protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers.

“We are not surprised by these numbers,” said Alice J. Johnson, executive director of the Illinois Nurses Association, which represents 3,600 unionized nurses statewide. “We have received countless calls from nurses at non-union hospitals that are desperate and do not know what to do because they are lacking in PPE or are forced to use PPE in unsafe ways at their job.

“None of this had to happen,” she continued. “There is no reason for nurses and other healthcare workers to be left without the equipment that they need. It is an incredible injustice, and nurses and healthcare workers deserved much better.”

The numbers come as the state announced another 2,049 new cases of COVID-19 today, including 98 deaths, pushing the overall death toll to 1,565. It’s the highest number of new cases announced in a 24-hour period to date.

“The most important thing that happened today that led to a higher positive test count is we tested more people,” Pritzker said when asked about the reason behind the surge in new cases. “I think the testing number for today was 9,300 and some. And that’s the largest number yet. So that’s why you see a larger positive testing result.”

Continue this article, covering COVID-19 developments in Illinois, on WBEZ’s website.

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