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Joint letter to Governor, Mayor regarding PPE supplies

The Honorable JB Pritzker,
Governor of Illinois
Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706

The Honorable Lori E. Lightfoot,
Mayor of Chicago
City of Chicago Office of the Mayor
121 N LaSalle St., Unit 507
Chicago, IL 60602

August 24, 2020

Dear Governor Pritzker, Mayor Lightfoot:

We are writing together because of the importance of the message that we must share regarding the ability of health care institutions to continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Illinois Nurses Association (INA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 and the University of Illinois Hospital mutually agree that this is an extremely important public policy matter with which we need your help to properly keep nurses, health care workers and patients safe. We are in strong agreement that in order to provide all healthcare workers with access to N95 respirator masks or their reusable equivalent, we need to significantly increase access to these supplies.

The N95 respirator mask is an essential tool in safeguarding our healthcare workers from exposure to pathogenic airborne particulates. Just like the State and City, we have worked together to conserve the use of N95s to maintain our supply and avoid running out of this critical PPE item during the COVID- 19 public health emergency, while also looking to new respirator technologies that are both reusable and provide added protection.

In an article published on June 1 in The Lancet, a systematic review and meta-analysis of research investigating the effects of physical distancing, face masks and eye protection on COVID-19 virus transmission in health care and non-health care settings concludes that N95 respirator masks provide enhanced protection compared to surgical masks. This reinforces the approach UI Hospital has taken since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—to provide the highest level of protection that our supply allows. But we have had and continue to have great difficulty in acquiring the quantity of N95 masks needed to expand usage to all those delivering care to any patient, most specifically in the smaller sizes.

Currently, UI Health has 16,500 N95 size small masks. Our projected daily use rate to universally mask all caregivers using size small N95s is about 1,500. Without access to a far greater supply, our present inventory, even when combined with existing supply chain acquisition opportunities, will not suffice. To be clear, we are not constrained by acquisition pricing. UI Hospital is acquiring virtually all potential N95 size small masks we can find in the market. To this end, UI Hospital has contracted with a health care supply chain consulting organization to ensure that no “stone is left unturned” in the quest for N95s.

As we continue in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois/Chicago efforts and increase our clinical activities related to surgeries, procedures and clinic visits, the need for appropriate PPE has only increased. Additionally, the threat of a resurgence of COVID-19 patients remains an unfortunate, but very real possibility. Now is the time to redouble our collective efforts, so that Illinois can be in a position to maintain the high safety standards that our patients and healthcare workers deserve.

UI Hospital has a proud history of leading in the healthcare sector through collective bargaining agreements that set high standards for healthcare workers, including instituting COVID differential pay and providing vital care to patients in all demographics of the communities we serve. We ask for your support and assistance in securing the necessary supply of PPE to mask all caregivers with N95 respirator masks.

Thank you for your leadership in this difficult time and we look forward to discussion on this issue.


Alice J. Johnson, ESQ
Executive Director, Illinois Nurses Association

Michael B. Zenn
CEO, University of Illinois Hospital

Diane Palmer
President, SEIU Local 73



Ngozi O. Ezike, MD
Director, Illinois Department of Public Health

Allison Arwady, MD
Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health