Coronavirus Has Forced States to Play "Sick Hunger Games," Governor Says

One state official is calling out the federal government for not issuing a national plan amid COVID-19.

The United States has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for the last four months. And since the virus hit the U.S. hard in March, many have criticized the country's slow response to the fast spreading virus. Numerous health and political officials have publicly condemned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their lack of urgency and preparedness. And now one governor, Illinois' J.B. Pritzker, is calling out the federal government's response, saying that states were forced to play a "sick Hunger Games" to fight for necessary resources during the pandemic.

"In the midst of a global pandemic, states were forced to play some sort of sick Hunger Games game show to save the lives of our people," Pritzker said in a testimony during a Homeland Security hearing on July 8. "Let me be clear, this is not a reality TV show. There are real things that are happening in the United States in 2020."

One woman, female doctor in full protective suit in home inspection.

According to Pritzker, the federal government's "muddled response" to the pandemic left states to fend for their own hospital supplies while battling rising cases. He testified that his state of Illinois was forced to pay $5 for masks that normally cost only 85 cents. He even said he was pushed to fight other states for supplies, recalling one instance in which a manufacturer told him that Illinois could move ahead of another potential customer waiting for personal protective equipment (PPE) if they increased their supply order.

"It's the federal government's job to make sure that a nurse being properly equipped in Peoria, Illinois, doesn't come at the cost of a doctor being ready for work in San Antonio, Texas," he said. "There was no national plan to acquire PPE or testing supplies, and as a result, people died."

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During his testimony, Pritzker advocated for a "coordinated national strategy," including a national face mask mandate, to help the once again surging coronavirus case numbers. The governor says when Illinois instituted their statewide mask mandate on May 1, it aligned with their "most significant downward shifts" in infection rates. Similarly, a recent Philadelphia Inquirer study found that states that merely recommend the use of masks—but do not mandate it—saw new coronavirus cases rise by 84 percent over a two-week period in June. Over the same period, states that require masks saw new cases drop 25 percent.

According to Pritzer, it's "not too late for the federal government to make an impact." "If the government has one job, it's to respond to a life-threatening emergency," he said. "But when the same emergency is crashing down on every state at once, that's a national emergency, and it requires a national response." And for more on mask use and the coronavirus, check out Here's How Long You'll Have to Wear a Face Mask, Experts Say.

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