As COVID-19 supplies become scarce, doctors scrape to protect themselves

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Pentagon is promising 5 million face masks will be made available to doctors, nurses and hospitals, and the president is promising more ventilators.

Medical industry workers say they can't come soon enough to Illinois.

"This mask, I got two years ago," said downstate doctor Jillian Scherer, who operates the Whole Family Health Medical Clinic in Olney in southeastern Illinois.

"I have four manufacturers that I routinely order supplies from all four of them," said Dr. Scherer. "It's an impossible to get anything from them."

Scherer is a Loyola University medical school graduate and Streamwood native now part of a Facebook group of thousands of desperate doctors.

"I honestly, I think we need to go into wartime production where all that we can possibly do to make the protective equipment that needs to go full tilt," said Scherer.

Near-wartime production is to start Thursday at Smith and Richardson metal manufacturing in west suburban Geneva.

"How do we keep everybody safe and still produce enough to be able to fight off the virus?" said company president Rich Hoster.

The family-owned company will comply with a federal government request to sharply increase output of six metal components for ventilators that are in short supply to help coronavirus patients breath.

"We have been asked to put those in front of any other orders that we have," said Hoster. "We're looking at what we can do to rearrange our schedule right now to make that happen for them," he told the I-Team. "Just like during war time, we've got to be able to produce the products necessary in order to continue to keep our people safe and treat people who do come down with this virus."

Back in downstate Illinois, a doctor's plea for supplies has produced a small but heartwarming result.

"I made a plea to my community via Facebook to get me some 95 respirators," said Dr. Jillian Scherer. "A farmer brought me an entire box of 20 respirators that he uses when he cleans out a grain bin. And another patient brought the six respirators that they use when they mow the lawn so their allergies don't act," she said.

For now, the masks are being treated like fentanyl. Across the country doctors and hospitals are locking them up with the narcotics.
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