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12 UIC Nurses Test Positive For Coronavirus, Union Calls For More Supplies To ‘Protect The Protector’

Hospital officials countered the union's claim that it had a shortage of PPE, saying hospital protocols met or exceeded CDC guidelines.

UIC Hospital, 1740 W Taylor St.
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MEDICAL DISTRICT — The Illinois Nurses Association is demanding greater protections as a dozen nurses have tested positive for coronavirus at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago.

The union, which represents nurses across the state, announced on Friday that 12 nurses at the hospital have tested for COVID-19.

“These nurses served patients on the frontline of the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic and risked their lives to make sure patients received proper care,” Alice Johnson, the union’s executive director, said in a statement 

“We hoped their hospital and their government would protect them, but they failed,” Johnson said.

Nurses have had to work on the COVID Care Unit without personal protective equipment, the nurses union said. A UIC nurse was reportedly chastised by their floor manager for wearing a mask of a COVID-19 who was being intubated, Johnson said.

“They do not know day to day if they will have masks, gowns, gloves or goggles for that shift,” Johnson said in a statement.

University of Illinois Health officials could not be reached for comment Monday. But the hospital countered the union’s claim that it had a shortage of PPE and officials said hospital protocols met or exceeded the Center for Disease Control Prevention guidelines, according to a statement provided to the Sun-Times.  

Michael Zenn, CEO of UI Health, told the Sun-Times only a “limited number” of cases were due to exposure inside the hospital.

The hospital has since updated new rules requiring employees to wear masks throughout the day. Zenn said no staff would be asked to “forgo” the use of PPE while treating COVID-19 patients, according to the report.

Across the country, hospitals have raised alarms regarding a shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for healthcare workers. Some hospital workers have reportedly said are being asked to wear one mask throughout the entirety of their shift.

Governors have urged the federal government for more personal protective equipment (PPE) to help better protect workers amid the crisis.

The Illinois Nurses Association launched an online petition urging U.S. Congress to increase the distribution of PPE to “protect the protectors.” The petition also argues health care workers should have widespread access to coronavirus testing to stop the spread of the illness.

“As nurses we are on the front lines of this outbreak and need support both at work and in our communities to do our jobs caring for our patients,” the petition reads.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been 5,057 confirmed positive cases of coronavirus in Illinois.

After asking the federal government for dwindling medical supplies, Gov. JB Pritzker said private companies in the state were stepping up to fill the void following the Trump administration’s insufficient response.

Last week, Pritzker launched a task force to secure more personal protective equipment as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Illinois. 

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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