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CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued a "call to action" during his daily news conference on Saturday to ask former or retired health care professionals, such as nurses and physicians, "to come back and join the fight against COVID-19."
"We need your help, now," Pritzker said.
Pritzker said the state would waive fees and expedite licenses so they can re-join the health care workforce "right away."
Pritzker said health care license reinstatement forms will be available at www.idfpr.com, and the state's coronavirus website by Monday.
"These applications will be processed on an expedited basis, and we'll be coordinating with hospitals and health care sites throughout the state to deploy these re-enlisted medical professionals to the frontlines," Pritzker said.
Pritzker also announced that for those with medical licenses that are expiring soon, the state is automatically extending those licenses through the end of September.
The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced 168 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, including one fatality, at the joint daily news briefing Saturday.
DeKalb County reported its first confirmed case. The patient is an adult in their 40s; however, DeKalb County Public Health Administrator Lisa Gonzalez declined to reveal any other information about the person.
"We have followed up with the person and we are doing a contact investigation at this time," Gonzalez said. "The first thing we do is make sure that person is isolated."
A Cook County man in his 70s has died. To date, six people have died within Illinois from COVID-19 and 6,247 individuals have been tested.
The IDPH also reports the total number of confirmed, positive cases is now 753, up from 585 cases from Friday's news briefing. Cases have occurred in ages 3 to 99 across 26 counties.
Pritzker addressed the status of personal protective equipment for medical personnel throughout the state. Pritzker said the state has inventoried PPE, and has a "reasonable handle" on what it has and what hospitals need.
Pritzker said the state put in a recent order for protective masks, and expects delivery "relatively soon."
"We're keeping a reasonable inventory count and making sure that we're not going to run out of those things," Pritzker said.
Pritzker then renewed his apparent frustrations toward the federal government response to COVID-19, citing "limited help" in regards to the state's PPE order.
"When we put in an order, we got 25% of what we asked for from the federal government," Pritzker said.
Pritzker later expanded on his frustrations regarding collective federal government assistance on testing kit availability, PPE equipment and more.
"I've been deeply concerned. I would say frustrated and sometimes even angry at the failures of the federal government," Pritzker said.
"Weeks ago, we were promised tests," Pritzker said. "We were told 'right around the corner'. I was told by people at the highest levels: 'Right around the corner we're going to see more and more tests' and then weeks went by."
Pritzker acknowledged that the state is seeing more tests, "but not even at the numbers that were promised weeks ago."
Pritzker lauded Illinois health care providers, researchers and others for their roles in testing development and frequency.
"I'm frustrated," Pritzker continued. "I'm hopeful, in a way, that the commercial laboratories and that the private sector will help us figure this out. Because so far, the federal government hasn't."