Over the last month, those of you working in IDHS' psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, and local offices have been on the front lines, serving our community and doing everything you can to save lives and provide essential services to the residents of Illinois. None of us expected to be in this position, but you have responded to the call and are facing this crisis head-on with courage and perseverance, and I am proud to work with you.
We know from the data and experts that our job is to flatten the curve. We estimate that our IDHS population of patients and residents may be affected by COVID-19 more than the general population because of their underlying medical conditions. Epidemiologists say 20% of the general population with positive COVID-19 diagnoses will become very sick. We estimate that as many as 30% of our patients and residents with positive COVID-19 diagnoses will become very sick. We are taking every precaution to ensure that we can anticipate and care for individuals in our hospitals and developmental centers who will become very ill. As hard as it is to admit - no matter the setting - staying at zero is not realistic, which is why flattening the curve and not experiencing catastrophic, system-breaking infections and deaths is so important.
I know that the last few weeks have not been easy and I know that, right now, for the dedicated, direct-care employees at our 24/7 facilities, we do not have enough PPE for you to do your work. The Governor and I are fighting every single day to get you more resources; more PPE, tests, ventilators, and supplies. We know we will not get everything we need right away and we will need to make strategic decisions to use what we have smartly. But I promise you this: the Governor and I will not stop working until we get you as much of the supplies and equipment that you need to do your jobs safely.
I don't know how long this fight against COVID-19 will last. But, I can promise you this: Everything we do at every level of our state government, every single day, has two goals in mind, neither of which is more important than the other - your safety and well-being, and the health and safety of our citizens. Not a single decision is made without thinking about your health and safety and the health and safety of the people you support and care for, and it will continue to be that way as long as I am Secretary.
We are in this fight together. Whether you are providing life-preserving healthcare or access to life-sustaining food and medicine, it is you who are on the front lines and it is you who are saving lives. You are heroes. You are my heroes, and I will continue to fight for you throughout this battle with COVID-19.
Grace B. Hou