DES MOINES — Governors in Iowa and Illinois sought Monday to defend their policy decisions around the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in both states climbed.
Medical data like hospitalizations and the length of hospital stays is at the heart of decisions made by Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration as it determines whether to implement sweeping virus mitigation strategies like closing public schools or requiring Iowans to stay in their homes, state officials said.
As of Monday, Illinois had 1,285 confirmed cases and 12 deaths; Iowa stood at 105 cases and no deaths.
Reynolds and state public health department deputy director Sarah Reisetter said during a news conference that they consider a number of factors and data points when deciding how best to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iowa, especially big decisions like whether to close schools or give a shelter-in-place order.
Throughout its response to the coronavirus since the first cases were confirmed here early this month, Iowa has been more hesitant than other states, including neighboring states, when implementing drastic mitigation strategies.
For example, most neighboring states ordered their public schools closed before Iowa gave its recommendation on March 15. And Iowa has not yet issued a shelter-in-place order, while Illinois and Wisconsin have.
Reisetter said the public health department, when determining whether to take significant mitigation steps, looks at medical data including rate of hospitalizations, lengths of hospital stays, the anticipated spread of a disease within a particular community, and the rate by which people with underlying health conditions are becoming affected.
She said the state also is in constant communication with county and other local public health officials.
“There are a number of factors like that we look at. And we look at the whole picture,” Reisetter said. “We are in the process of having those conversations every day and continuing to evaluate what’s happening here in our state, as well as what’s happened in other states and other countries as we look to make those recommendations to Gov. Reynolds.”
Reisetter said the public health department’s analysis, at this point, does not suggest Iowa needs a shelter-in-place order that would require Iowans to remain in their homes other than for essential errands like grocery shopping or getting health care, even though other states have delivered such an order.
Meanwhile in Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker detailed the state’s efforts to stock up on personal protective equipment and said President Donald Trump was “responsive” to the state’s needs in a phone call Monday, one day after the pair feuded on Twitter.
During his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago, the governor also announced a new partnership with the manufacturing and biotech industries in the state to produce needed supplies and called for donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
“My administration continues to work day and night to scour the globe in the global supply chain,” Pritzker said of the hunt for medical supplies needed to deal with COVID-19.
The briefing came as the state announced 236 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total to 1,285, and three new confirmed deaths, bringing the total to 12.
The three new deaths came in Cook County in two men in their 80s and a man in his 90s. Monroe County reported its first case, meaning the virus has been confirmed in 31 counties, although experts urge all Illinoisans to assume the virus has already reached their community.
Pritzker said as the state tries to ramp up its preparation efforts in terms of supplies, it is working with in-state manufacturers and trying to purchase supplies on the marketplace. In an effort to bid for ventilators, Pritzker said Illinois was competing with the federal government. In another case, it was bidding against other states and other countries.
“It's the federal government's job to make sure that cash strapped states are not paying more than they should have to pay for supplies, that we are not watching prices go up by the hour, because we're competing against one another, yet for the common good,” Pritzker said at the briefing.
He said the first shipment of medical supplies from the federal government came on March 12, and a duplicate order came on March 20, but the two shipments combined equaled only a fraction of the state’s request.
He said the total requests and shipments were as follows: 2.34 million protective N95 masks requested, 246,860 received; 900,000 surgical masks requested, 91,298 received; 7.4 million gloves requested, 325,082 received; 924,000 gowns requested, 91,298 received; 47,500 goggles requested, none received; 120,000 face shields requested, 111,978 received.
He said the state also requested 4,000 respirators but received none.
He said the state made another request for hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, gowns, goggles and meals ready to eat, but the March 20 shipment the state received contained the same size shipment it received March 12 without any of the other items.
Pritzker said he spoke to Trump around noon Monday and the president was “very responsive.” He said he talked to Trump about a need for masks and ventilators, and noted he has called on the president to use the National Defense Production Act to make the federal government a single purchaser for the necessary equipment rather than having states bid each other up.
“He didn't so much like the idea of invoking the Defense Production Act, but he did say, you know, ‘What do you need? Let me see if I can get that for you,’” Pritzker said of the call. “It seems like he's being very responsive to what I asked for. And I hope that we'll be able to receive those items in relatively short order.”
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois contributed.
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