Apr 16, 2020

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 16

Illinois Briefing April 16
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsIllinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 16

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a coronavirus press briefing today, April 16. Pritzker announced a 6 Midwest governor pact to reopen states. Read the full transcript here.

 

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J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
Afternoon, everyone. Joining Dr. Ezike and me today are three guests who will offer an update on our testing output and the geographical distribution of testing in Illinois. The folks who are joining me today are the chief medical officer of the University of Chicago, Dr. Steven Weber. The president and CEO of Howard Brown Health, David Munar, and the president and CEO of the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association, Jordan Powell.

J.B. Pritzker: (00:34)
Before we get into today’s news, it is my solemn responsibility to report that we lost 125 Illinoisans to this virus over the last 24 hours. These are family members and loved ones, neighbors and friends. Today we mourn with their communities and we offer them our solace and our strength in this very difficult time. May their memories be for a blessing.

J.B. Pritzker: (01:09)
Today I will also be reviewing our PPE procurement, but before we dive in, I want to let everyone know about an important new multi-state initiative. Earlier today I, along with Governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walls of Minnesota, Eric Holcomb of Indiana and Andy Beshear of Kentucky announced a formal partnership to reflect our ongoing regional collaborations in response to COVID-19.

J.B. Pritzker: (01:46)
We are committing all of us to work in close coordination as a region to most effectively reopen our economy with a fact-based data-driven approach. Each state will design its own plan, but with shared priorities, the ability to test and trace on a widespread basis, holding down infection and hospitalization rates, enhancing healthcare capacity to handle a potential resurgence and a continued emphasis on social distancing in the workplace and elsewhere.

J.B. Pritzker: (02:21)
I’m grateful to my fellow governors for their willingness to work in partnership. We are all in close contact with our colleagues in neighboring states and working to expand our collaborative efforts in this regard.

J.B. Pritzker: (02:35)
On to today’s update, let’s start with PPE. It’s vitally important that we keep the PPE supplies flowing for our first responders, our healthcare professionals and our frontline workers. And as a refresher, we’re looking at a statewide 10 day PPE burn rate of just under 1.5 million N-95 masks, 25 million gloves, 4.4 million gowns and 700,000 surgical masks. And that’s just across our hospitals and our longterm care facilities, with additional set asides for our law enforcement and essential state workers and state run facilities.

J.B. Pritzker: (03:20)
We’ve now delivered PPE to each of our 102 counties in Illinois from the state stockpile, supporting the existing PPE supply chains and stocks at various health care facilities and local health departments, along with city and county emergency management agencies and all the regional healthcare coalitions.

J.B. Pritzker: (03:43)
In sum, we’ve sent out more than 10 million items, including 5 million surgical masks, over 1.5 million N-95 masks, nearly 20,000 gowns, over 4 million gloves and nearly 200,000 face shields. We also have outstanding orders due to arrive in the coming days and weeks, with an additional 27 million N-95 and KN-95 masks, 27 million surgical and disposable masks, 8.4 million gowns and coveralls, 23.5 million gloves and 7.5 million face shields. Although these are appropriate and seemingly large orders, I want everyone to understand that we don’t count these orders in inventory until the shipments actually appear in our state warehouse.

J.B. Pritzker: (04:39)
As you know, COVID-19 and the lack of federal organization of the supply chain have truly warped the market. As a result, we rarely have the luxury of going directly to a manufacturer or even a distributor to place an order. Under the current circumstances, procurements are often made now through multiple layers of connections. One distributor in the U.S. will know another distributor in another country who knows someone with a warehouse of masks and gloves. Our state procurement team has to track down these leads, vet the source in a very short time, because they’re competing to get the available goods first. And then they have to figure out how to ship the goods from point A to point B. It’s not ideal, but our team is succeeding in a number of highly competitive situations.

J.B. Pritzker: (05:33)
Next, let’s talk about testing capacity. That means machines and labs, which as you know are critical components of both our response right now and our medium term path to get to the other side of this crisis. Last week I walked you through how our world class researchers and scientists we’re collaborating with Thermo Fisher to identify and address the efficiency and reliability within the company’s machines; a critical component of our testing expansion plan.

J.B. Pritzker: (06:07)
I’m pleased to say that Thermo Fisher was not only extremely helpful in working with us to improve these testing procedures, but also committed to prioritizing Illinois as its customer. Those five machines that we had had concerns about, are now up and running with reliable results. So reliable that as we ramp up over the next week, we’re estimating additional capacity of thousands more tests per day at our state labs alone.

J.B. Pritzker: (06:39)
You’ve heard me talk about the fact that machines in labs are only one part of ramping up testing in our state. We’ve also needed to find adequate supplies of items necessary to take specimens. Over the last month, obtaining the raw materials for specimens, notably viral transport medium called VTM and swabs, has been difficult. However, I’m incredibly proud that my team has now managed to virtually eliminate our supply chain problems for VTM and swabs. Our university partners of Illinois Tech, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and the University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, as well as outside vendors have committed collectively, to providing us with enough VTM and swabs that we can not only stock our own state labs, but support additional labs throughout the state. This means even more specimens being taken for testing.

J.B. Pritzker: (07:45)
And I want to invite labs who need our VTM and swabs, because many out there do, they should come and request it through their local emergency management agencies. They’ll be able to obtain it and provide it to you. The next and final piece of this is the need to increase the number of locations available, so that people can give the specimens that then get tested. With our increased capacity of machines and labs and the new supply of raw materials, we now can take more specimens to test. It’s a great place to be at. Having the ability to expand testing sites, now that we can run more tests.

J.B. Pritzker: (08:26)
I’m pleased to say that the guests here who are with me today are partners in our statewide efforts to broadly increase participation in testing to reflect our new found capacities, especially in African American communities and other communities that face significant structural challenges in accessing healthcare.

J.B. Pritzker: (08:48)
We’re utilizing our incredible statewide network of federally qualified health centers to launch new testing locations in communities across Illinois. These new sites will feed specimens to our network of expanded laboratory capacity. In coordination with the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association, we asked which of the over 300 centers would be interested in helping us expand testing. An overwhelming number of them were eager to help. We now have sites coming online across Chicago, the collar counties, Peoria and in Southern Illinois with many more centers expressing interest and working to get their operations up and running.

J.B. Pritzker: (09:33)
An up-to-date list of these sites will be online at coronavirus.illinois.gov. And I want to remind everyone that if you think you might need a COVID-19 test and your symptoms are somewhat mild, please call before showing up. And while each independent provider can and will offer tests with our own unique criteria, the state of Illinois has expanded those eligible to get a test to include anyone who has COVID-like symptoms, even if you have not been given a doctor’s order. This will apply to our state run drive through testing centers and it is guidance that we will now be offering to providers all across the state of Illinois.

J.B. Pritzker: (10:18)
Two days ago, we opened our third state drive through site with excellent turnout. The new site in Markham in Chicago’s South suburbs, took over 600 specimens in its first day of operations. Now I want to put that in perspective. That’s about four times what the federally run sites were doing previously. With this new site, our drive throughs now have the ability to run up to 1800 tests per day. These sites have produced terrific results for us and in the coming days I’ll be announcing two additional drive through testing sites as we continue bringing that success to new regions and new areas of Illinois.

J.B. Pritzker: (11:02)
Folks, this progress on testing isn’t all the progress that we need to begin on our path back to normal, but this is truly an important step to help us get there. Until that day comes, please take comfort in the fact that you’re helping to make a difference; all of you. Your individual efforts to stay home, wash your hands, keep your distance and wear masks are what is flattening our collective curve. The day we can begin our path back to normal will come sooner because of your actions right now.

J.B. Pritzker: (11:40)
So I ask you to continue to tap into your courage, your sense of community, your generosity, and stay the course. We will get through this together, all of us together. Thank you very much.

J.B. Pritzker: (11:53)
And now I’d like to invite IDPH Director, Ngozi Ezike to give our medical update for the day. Doctor.

Ngozi Ezike: (12:03)
Good afternoon and of course, thank you Governor Pritzker for your leadership throughout this pandemic. Your call for more resources has led to action for the people of Illinois, and I thank you for being at the forefront of this response.

Ngozi Ezike: (12:16)
Today as you’ve heard is with a heavy heart that we announced the greatest number of deaths in a 24 hour period with 125 lives lost. That brings our total of lives lost to COVID to 1072. We also had new cases, new positive COVID cases in the sum of 1,140, which brings our total state count to 25,733.

Ngozi Ezike: (12:49)
While these numbers are disheartening, I don’t want people to despair. Instead, I want them to renew our collective resolve to do what is needed to end the pandemic. We continue to learn an amass new information about this virus every single day. Remember, we have only known about this virus in the last five months and we’ve only known it to be in our state for four months. So we’re following the research and we’re following the studies that come out daily to update our knowledge base and inform our decisions.

Ngozi Ezike: (13:25)
New research suggests that people with coronavirus may be most contagious the day they start symptoms or even a day or two before. An article recently published in Nature Medicine yesterday, indicates that a person had the highest viral load at the time of symptom onset. Of course, with the highest viral load, that would be the time of most contagiousness.

Ngozi Ezike: (13:51)
Secondary cases were infected during index cases, presymptomatic stage, so that means they identified individuals who were infected by someone before they actually had symptoms. This is why widespread testing is so important. We need to know who may be infected as soon as we can before they come into contact with many other people, especially the most vulnerable.

Ngozi Ezike: (14:20)
As you’re starting to understand, there are several types of testing. There’s the virologic tests that detects the virus, and these specimens can be collected with a nasal swab or a nasal pharyngeal swab. The nasal swab would just go early into the nose, but the nasal pharyngeal swab will go deeper down towards the back of your throat, and that one uses a healthcare provider to help collect the specimens. The nasal swab can be self collected.

Ngozi Ezike: (14:47)
These are point in time tests. If you don’t have the virus, if you’re not shedding the virus at this time, then your test will not be positive. But that doesn’t mean if you have a negative test that you’re immune, or-

Ngozi Ezike: (15:03)
… that you can’t get infected, please understand that even a day later you could now take the same test and now become positive. There’s also the antibody tests, these serologic tests focused on the antibodies that are made by your immune system. These will be important to know who has antibodies and who doesn’t as we try to reopen the state. We are working hard to evaluate the test for immunity that are coming online so that the very best of these tests will be offered here in our state.

Ngozi Ezike: (15:46)
We are working with healthcare systems, universities as well as ramping up our capacity at IDPH to run the virologic tests. We will need to know both who has the virus now as well as who has had the virus in the past. You could have immunity because you were previously infected, maybe you even were tested and were laboratory confirmed, but there are many people who don’t have laboratory confirmed disease but had an illness and would also have developed antibodies as well. Until we have a vaccine testing is the key to obtaining the health information necessary to help prevent the spread as well as to help us safely reopen the state and return to work. You have heard me say it before this is a marathon we have to keep pace. You can’t get ahead of ourselves. You can see that we still have many new cases and unfortunately many lives that continue to be lost, but running together we will still beat this COVID-19.

Ngozi Ezike: (16:53)
We are on the right track. We’re not over this, but we will please continue to be all in Illinois. And now summarize comments in Spanish. [foreign language 00:02: 07]. And with that I will turn it over to Dr. Steven Weber.

Dr. Steven Weber: (21:15)
Thank you Dr. Ezike. I’m Steven Weber. I’m the chief medical officer at the university of Chicago medicine. I’m also a practicing infectious disease physician and epidemiologist. Before I start, I want to acknowledge governor Pritzker for your leadership throughout the pandemic. The approach that you noted and that you share with mayor Lightfoot, which is based on clinical evidence and data and science is greatly appreciated and the provider community and has greatly benefited the citizens of Illinois. University of Chicago Madison has been serving the community of the South side of Chicago and beyond for almost a hundred years. And in that time we’ve invested a serious commitment in supporting that community through both good times and hard times. And it’s difficult to recollect a time more challenging than what we face right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m pleased then at this time to share with you the good news that together with our network partner Ingalls Memorial hospital and Harvey, that we’re committed to dramatically expanding access to testing on the South side of Chicago and the Southland.

Dr. Steven Weber: (22:16)
We’ve committed together to generate 1000 tests each day for the communities on the South side and the Southland. And we hope that this makes us much, much closer as a state to the governor’s commitment to 10,000 tests a day. We’re able to make this commitment in large measure through the work of folks on our campus and in our hospital who are dedicated to bringing together the supplies, the equipment and the expertise to make this testing available. But this isn’t work that you do on your own or by yourself. We’re grateful to have enlisted partners and we can support across the South side and Southland and beyond Ingalls to other community hospitals to federally qualified health centers and to other community partners and longterm care facilities to make this available to the patients where they need it. To that end, this’ll take many different shapes.

Dr. Steven Weber: (23:03)
There’ll be additional drive through testing at the university of Chicago and Ingalls as well as sharing of resources, testing equipment and access to our laboratories on campus to the other partners that I mentioned. We want to be sure to expand those partnerships beyond the inaugural group with whom we’re working. That group includes La Rabida Children’s Hospital, St. Anthony’s, St. Bernard and Palos hospital. We’re also partnering with access community health network and several longterm care facilities including Montgomery Place, Symphony South Shore and Villa at Windsor park. And again, we do want to add additional partners. So why this testing is important we’ll be told a thousand times a day in the stories of the patients and their families who either have access to earlier diagnosis and care or who get the peace of mind to have a negative test result. But we see a larger mission that we’re a part of here, which is to understand and to break the links and the chain of the pandemic across the South side because that pays dividends across the state and across the country. We also feel deeply committed to using this information to understand better how this infection has been spreading through the community so that we can interrupt it and prevent future outbreaks. Lastly though, I think there’s a longer term legacy around this commitment and that comes from the partnership and from the collaboration that we’re building out with these partners in the communities of the South side. The reality is COVID-19 is not the first and certainly not the only disease that disproportionately affects members of our community on the South side. That being said, we want to leverage this experience of working together in this pandemic to build the bridges and collaboration that extend far beyond and provide a lasting benefit to renew our commitment to the community. I just want to end by really acknowledging and I probably share this with all the speakers, all of the providers on the front line who are taking care of patients every day. They’re the heroes in all of this and we’re grateful to support them with everything that we do. So I appreciate the opportunity to speak, I’m going to turn it over to my colleague Jordan Powell. Thank you.

Jordan Powell: (25:01)
Thank you Dr. Weber and I would like to begin by thanking governor Pritzker, deputy governor Sol Flores, director Ezike and director Eagleson for your tremendous leadership throughout this crisis. Your commitment to protecting the lives of Illinoisans is not only evident through your words but through your actions and we are reminded of that fact at these daily briefings. Again, my name is Jordan Powell. I’m the president and CEO of the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association, a statewide organization representing Illinois community health centers, also known as federally qualified health centers that now serve more than 1.4 million patients at 390 locations throughout the state. And IPHA is proud to partner with governor Pritzker and his administration to utilize our vast network of health centers to expand COVID-19 testing not only here in Chicago but also in Central and Southern Illinois. For those that are unfamiliar community health centers were born more than 50 years ago to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in the American health system.

Jordan Powell: (26:05)
And in Illinois community health centers started right here in Chicago to provide healthcare access to public housing residents. And while much has changed in the last five decades, there has remained one constant and that is our unwavering commitment to provide access to care to anyone who needs it. Whether a person is insured or uninsured, documented or not, black, white, gay, straight, young or old, they will receive high quality healthcare that frankly we all deserve. For many community health centers are the first place they turn for healthcare and COVID-19 is no exception. Our members are on the front lines of this battle and some of Illinois most underserved communities, including communities of color, which we now know are disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. In response our health centers have risen to the challenge and they’ve restructured their practices to meet the needs of their communities.

Jordan Powell: (27:06)
They’re setting up drive through and walk up screening and testing stations. They’re engaging the homeless population and partnering with shelters and treating our most at risk neighbors. Meanwhile, they continue to provide life saving medical care, critical mental health services and substance use disorder treatment in addition to rapidly expanding their telehealth offerings. Now more than ever health centers are so proud to serve our fellow Illinoisans and we welcome this opportunity to work and partner with the governor and his team to increase our state’s testing capacity to strengthen the fight against COVID-19. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to one of our health center leaders, David Ernesto Munar.

David Ernesto Munar: (27:57)
Thank you Jordan and thank you governor and your team for your steadfast leadership. My name is David Ernesto Munar, I’m president and CEO Howard Brown Health. We are the largest LGBTQ organization in the Midwest and the leading source for LGBT related healthcare services reaching 30,000 patients and clients in Chicago through 11 clinical locations. Today Howard Brown is proud to announce a new collaboration with partner agency project Vida to establish a COVID care station in the little village neighborhood of Chicago. The new collaboration is made possible thanks to the testing supplies provided by the state. The station is located adjacent to project Vida 2659 South Kedvale Avenue, just a few blocks West of the busy 26 and Pulaski intersection. The station is staffed Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:30 and Saturdays from 10 to 3:00 PM. Our care station will offer local residents risk assessments for the novel coronavirus, medical evaluations and if indicated, screening for the infection. Services are being provided at no cost and without regard to immigration status.

David Ernesto Munar: (29:13)
Staff at the station are bilingual in English and Spanish. Both project Vida and Howard Brown recognize the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the Latino community. Latin people have the lowest rate of healthcare coverage of any racial ethnic group. Both organizations have a long history of community mobilization around HIV prevention, education and [inaudible 00:29:37] to care. Like HIV, coronavirus thrives where there are social inequities. With a society and federal government increasingly hostile towards Latino immigrants in our families the magnitude of health and the economic disparities among Latinos is expected to grow. For many immigrants and non-residents stimulus and other benefits will not apply escalating the harm to these families and ultimately to public health-

David Munar: (30:03)
… but Howard Brown will not shy away from a challenge. Our four decades of experience battling HIV is exactly the kind of experience we need, to scale an effective public health response. For the past month, nurses and medical providers at Howard Brown have staffed our COVID-19 hotline. To date, we have triaged more than a thousand patients about their symptoms over the phone. We launched Telehealth, for primary care and behavioral health, effectively redirecting about half of our visits, in person visits, to video conference or telephone. In just three weeks, we’ve completed about a thousand Telehealth visits. At all our locations, we screen visitors for COVID-19 risk factors. Those with symptoms or other risk factors receive enhanced medical attention at our COVID care stations, operated outside the clinic, in tents or adjacent facilities. Through our COVID care stations, we’ve screened more than 700 patients and diagnosed 175 with the coronavirus. In addition to our little village care station with Project Vida, we operate COVID care stations at our clinics in Inglewood, Hyde Park, Lakeview, Uptown and Rogers Park.

David Munar: (31:17)
With state support, we plan to launch additional mobile and partnership care stations next week to better serve communities of color on the West Side. We’re also working hard to educate the diverse LGBTQ community about COVID-19 and respond to the needs of LGBT elders, caregivers, essential workers, and people with chronic medical conditions. Our disease intervention teams are extending their expertise in STI and HIV, a partner services to offer contract tracing to our patients diagnosed with coronavirus, finally, our social service teams are working with survivors of sexual assaults, people living with HIV and those at risk, homeless youth, transgender patients and patients needing sexual and reproductive health care to meet their health and safety net needs. We are so grateful to the state for supplying us with additional test kits. The lack of supplies has been the principal factor limiting our ability to do more. With decades of experience mobilizing communities around HIV testing, prevention and treatment, we are confident we can advance public health and awareness, in partnerships with the communities we serve. Thank you, and with that, I’ll turn it over to the governor.

J.B. Pritzker: (32:34)
Thank you very much, David. Thanks, I’m happy to take any questions from members of media in the room.

Elizabeth Matthews: (32:40)
Thank you, governor. Elizabeth Matthews, full reporter at Fox 32. A question from David Palomino, Univision, planning to extend that stay at home order?

J.B. Pritzker: (32:50)
Am I planning to extend the stay at home order? Obviously, as we go every day, we talk to our partners in the healthcare community, in the scientific community, to try to determine what or how we ought to make sure that we’re keeping people safe in the month of May, because we’re talking about the end of the order at April 30th, so we’re continuing to do that and we’ll be making announcements about our decisions over the next several days, I’m sure, over the next week.

Elizabeth Matthews: (33:19)
So this partnership that you have with the other governors in the Midwest, I believe as the governor of Wisconsin extended his stay at home order, do you follow suit? Do you take that into consideration when you’re making up your own rules? I know you said that every governor is going to have, you’re going to do your own thing with your own state but do you take that into consideration?

J.B. Pritzker: (33:40)
Well, I talked to a number of governors, and these are the governors that we’re closest with, and so I certainly look at what they’re doing and I listen to them, they listen to me, they asked me questions along the way and each of us have taken ideas from one another. I think what we’re trying to do with the collaborative effort together is to make sure that we’re using similar criteria, right? It matters if you’re bordering states, if your region has sort of similar criteria, and I’ve talked a lot about this criteria over time and some of them have as well, testing, tracing, treating. Those are all important things. Having widespread availability of PPE. Those are all things that we share in common and, of course, protecting workers and customers.

J.B. Pritzker: (34:27)
When you ultimately try to loosen things up and make sure that people can do commerce and that we have an economy that starts to work again in the way that we all want it to, you want to make sure that you’re keeping people safe and so that’s the workers and the customers, of course the business owners too. We try to take all that into consideration but we share a lot of common values, and you saw it’s a bipartisan group. We share, I think in common, those sets of values and criteria and that’s really why we created that collaborative so that we can share those best ideas.

Elizabeth Matthews: (35:05)
We were expecting you to speak with President Trump today. Did you? How did it go? What came of it?

J.B. Pritzker: (35:06)
It was a call with our… It was our team, myself and all of the governors from around the country. So, that’s the regular call that he joins or sometimes doesn’t, but it’s always with the vice president at least and so there wasn’t anything specific that came of it. I was simultaneously, because it was a late call, so simultaneously preparing for this press conference and listening in on the call.

Elizabeth Matthews: (35:32)
So there was no guidance from the president about reopening?

J.B. Pritzker: (35:36)
As I understand, he has sent an email, although I checked my iPhone and I didn’t see any email, but he supposedly has sent an email with his ideas about when and how the country might open its economy up, but as I’ve said many times at this podium, we’re using the criteria that are set out here in Illinois, what’s best for the people of Illinois, their safety and health and listening to the scientists and the doctors.

Elizabeth Matthews: (36:04)
So to clarify, he was or wasn’t on the call today?

J.B. Pritzker: (36:06)
He was.

Elizabeth Matthews: (36:07)
He was. Okay, but nothing major came out of it.

J.B. Pritzker: (36:10)
Again, he sent out apparently something major, but that was it.

Elizabeth Matthews: (36:14)
Gotcha. This is from Ben Bradley, WGN. Illinois spent millions on N95 masks from China. IDPH is out with a new health alert that says those mass may not meet performance standards and some could be counterfeit. Governor, in a rush to secure PPE, did Illinois gets scammed?

J.B. Pritzker: (36:30)
No. I think what the guidance is, is that sometimes you can acquire PPE from people, right? Not from the state but anywhere. It might say N95 mask on it, but you’ve got to know that that’s a real N95 mask. All the PPE, and this is true for all of the health departments and everybody that acquires PPE now, you’ve really got to make sure that what arrives is what you paid for, what you thought you were getting, and so we’re doing our best and things come in in shipments of a million, you can’t go through one mask at a time, and so you try to take samples from the shipments that come in, and make sure that you got what you were paying for.

Elizabeth Matthews: (37:05)
Has that happened? Have we received…?

J.B. Pritzker: (37:06)
We are checking, we are receiving and I talked about a little earlier about the amount that we’ve shipped out. All of that is what we acquired and we ship it out almost immediately. There are 102 counties in the state. I know that here in Chicago, people think that this is the only county sometimes, but we have 102 counties. We have a lot of people across the state who need PPE. We’ve got 211 hospitals and these 390 FQHCs. It’s very important that we make sure that PPE gets distributed to all of those locations and that there are backup stores of PPE for the county health departments.

Elizabeth Matthews: (37:40)
And doctors, you get kind of a followup question, should first responders and healthcare workers still feel protected while wearing those masks?

Ngozi Ezike: (37:51)
So, yes, we know that there are different levels of coverage from N95 to KN95 to surgical masks to covering, and so, we know, depending on the kind of work you’re doing, it’d be the N95 for procedures that would cause the aerosolization of particles, that we’re worried about the Corona virus, but if I’m walking down the street, I don’t necessarily need that, versus if someone was just going to the store, they might use a mask. So, there are different levels of coverage that are needed, depending on what you’re doing.

J.B. Pritzker: (38:25)
And I think maybe just to respond, I think that’s probably related to the question of the scammers out there. There are people, I’ve seen it online too, who are selling what they purport to be a protective mask, that may not be protective at all. It may in fact have defects associated with it and these are obviously of great concern to all of us. People should be very careful about what they are buying, especially if you don’t see it before it’s acquired. They need to be careful online or even in person, that they’re buying what they think they’re buying and so, anybody that runs across anything like that, you should report it to the attorney general. We certainly do. We want to make sure that these people are prosecuted.

Elizabeth Matthews: (39:06)
Okay. This comes from Chris Tie with CVS2. What is the status of the supply flights that Illinois chartered coming in from China?

J.B. Pritzker: (39:14)
Again, we’ve chartered, you’ve seen in the press before that we’ve had a number of flights that have been chartered. We’re bringing the PPE in as fast as we can and we’re looking forward to being able to count that among our inventory.

Elizabeth Matthews: (39:28)
I think one came in today. Correct? This morning?

J.B. Pritzker: (39:30)
Again, I haven’t gotten the report. I said earlier, I don’t count anything until it shows up in our warehouse, and so, yes, one was scheduled to come in today.

Elizabeth Matthews: (39:40)
Okay. Once the planes get here, how will the state makes sure that they get to where they’re needed and what steps are being taken to make sure the supplies are not lost or stolen?

J.B. Pritzker: (39:47)
Well, we do this regularly. I don’t think that should be of much concern in the sense that we’ve had shipments of PPE coming in for quite a while now and that goes again to warehouses that we control, at the state level. We have an understanding from all of the healthcare institutions what it is that they may need at that time and we make sure we ship it out exactly, to make sure that they’ve got a seven to 10 day supply that’s on hand and that they know that their local public health department has a backup supply for them, no matter where they are, and I’d just add to that, that the city of Chicago and the county of Cook have supplies of their own that are substantial. They receive supplies also, typically directly from the federal government and we’ve been supplying the city of Chicago, for example. I know there was a story about lots of big supplies that they have, but they have actually asked us to resupply them and we do that as well.

Elizabeth Matthews: (40:47)
Okay. A few questions from Terra Melina, CVS2. The United States Department of Labor is offering technical and computer assistance to states with their unemployment systems. Given the issues here, why didn’t Illinois take the federal government up on that offer?

J.B. Pritzker: (40:59)
Well, I think as some people might know, even when they put up the… What was it? Healthcare.gov, a website some years ago, that even the federal government sometimes, especially government, doesn’t do things as well as the private sector. What I can tell you is that we’ve got private sector consultants, big ones, that have come in to help us put up the proper websites that we need, in order to fulfill on what the federal government and the Congress passed not long ago. Many States are still putting those up and we are too, and so, we’ll make sure that everybody has access to those benefits because we put up a great website.

Elizabeth Matthews: (41:37)
I think this is what you’re referring to. We understand LMI already contracted the same third party help through several private partnerships. Could this have been done through the feds for free?

J.B. Pritzker: (41:47)
We actually will get reimbursed for it by the federal government. So, anything related to coronavirus expense expenditures is part of what was provided in the Cares Act for states, so we’re going to make sure that we aren’t spending our own money, if we can reimbursed.

Speaker 4: (42:04)
Okay, this will have to be the last one because we’ve got like 50 other questions.

Elizabeth Matthews: (42:07)
It is, it is. Thank you. You waived the waiting week for unemployment claimants.

J.B. Pritzker: (42:12)
Say again, I’m sorry, the first part?

Elizabeth Matthews: (42:12)
You waived the waiting week for unemployed… Sorry, can’t see my mouse.

J.B. Pritzker: (42:15)
That’s okay, I apologize.

Elizabeth Matthews: (42:16)
The unemployment claimants, allowing them to receive two weeks of benefits rather than one, but we’re hearing people have to wait weeks for those benefits to arrive, many receiving debit cards with no money on them for weeks. Has anything else been done at the state level to expedite the process in general?

J.B. Pritzker: (42:30)
Actually, I would say that, although there’s a slow start when all of a sudden there’s a deluge, I’ve talked about this before, of unemployment claims and so there may have been people early on in the process for which that was happening. We are now, I think, operating on a much more higher level, doing what amounts to about 10 times, eight to 10 times the number of claims being processed now, than were being processed a year ago at the same time, and so getting your debit card, getting filed and making sure there’s two weeks that’s initially on your card or in the cheque that you receive, is something that we’ve worked very hard to make sure we do right, so that may have been a problem early on and we’re working hard to fix the early problems, while also delivering now to people who are newly filing.

Speaker 4: (43:22)
Governor, we’re getting a lot of calls from our viewers today, apparently, about delaying insurance payments, car insurance payments, life insurance, health insurance. Apparently they’re being told payments for April and May can be delayed, however, full payment of all three of those months are going to be due in June. Well, if the economy’s not reopened by June, what happens then?

J.B. Pritzker: (43:40)
Yeah, we’ll have to look at that. I mean, what we’ve tried to do is give people a lot of leeway. It’s hard for us to, right up front, just say, “Well, nobody has to pay anything.” Right? We can’t do that. It’s in the law that. What we can do is delay and ask those companies to delay, for example, putting any interest or penalties on people who are delayed in paying their bills, that they receive their premium bills.

Speaker 4: (44:09)
Okay, and back to this collaboration of the governors from the region, the governor of Wisconsin has extended their stay at home order now through May 22nd or May 26th but the governor of Ohio is saying that they may start to reopen some businesses by May 1st, so if you guys are all working in collaboration, does that really work if various States are doing their own thing and why are we waiting to extend the stay at home order, if that’s what you anticipate doing?

J.B. Pritzker: (44:36)
Well, what I would say is that April 30th is the deadline that we set. We certainly will be making decisions about it. We look at it every day, again, and to the extent that other states are looking at opening certain kinds of businesses on certain dates, obviously we have different economies across these states. We share a lot in common, however, and so a lot of the ideas that we each have about our state are applicable to one another.

J.B. Pritzker: (45:03)
As to the date that somebody picks, look, part of it is dependent, as I said, upon the increase in testing. Does a state feel comfortable based upon their population that they’re doing enough testing? You can’t just look at the base number of tests that a state is doing, it’s based upon population, right? How many out of a million people are getting tested in each state? We’re not where we want to be in this state. The other part of it is that, as I’ve said, we need to do much more tracking and tracing. I think that’s very, very important and we’re spinning up a tracking and tracing capability, this contact tracing.

J.B. Pritzker: (45:38)
But again, what’s important about this collaborative I think is that our economies share a lot in common in the Midwest, traditionally referred to often as the rust belt, so the result is the industries are similar, the thinking is a little bit similar and we’ve all developed a pretty good relationship with one another and that makes it a very worthwhile collaborative to have because collectively I think we’re making good decisions. Importantly, we are saying things that are different than the things that are coming out of the CDC and the White House.

Speaker 5: (46:17)
Do you anticipate any businesses-

Speaker 6: (46:18)
This will have to be the last question.

Speaker 5: (46:18)
Do you anticipate any businesses in Illinois reopening on May 1st?

J.B. Pritzker: (46:21)
Again, I’m looking at the executive orders. Remember, in the executive order there is a list of essential businesses. We started out with the base of the Homeland Security list, the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, of what’s an essential business and then we expanded upon that to include things that we thought were either unique to Illinois or where we might have disagreed with the Department of Homeland Security and wanted more open.

J.B. Pritzker: (46:47)
We’re constantly looking at adjusting. We indeed have adjusted since the very beginning, right? As people have come to us and said, “Well, here’s how we would operate as an industry if we had the opportunity to open.” Based upon that, we’ve been able to do that. We’re constantly looking at it and we will, if we extended the stay-at-home and kept the essential business list in place, we would continue to evaluate where we could make adjustments.

Speaker 7: (47:14)
Governor, with your collaboration with the other Midwestern States, we noticed Iowa is not on the list. Why is Iowa not on the list and don’t you need Iowa if you’re going to make this work with all bordering states?

J.B. Pritzker: (47:24)
We would love to have as many states as want to join as a part of it. Iowa chose not to be part of this. I know they don’t have a stay-at-home rule yet in place. They’ve made a lot of different decisions than we have. Frankly, we were, as you know, one of the very first States, the second state in the United States put a stay-at-home order in. I think ours has been copied by a number of others, which is terrific. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I would like it if everybody adopted similar rules because we’re bending the curve and not everywhere is bending the curve. There’s nothing I can do.

J.B. Pritzker: (48:03)
The federal government chose, the White House chose not to take the lead here, and so the states have had to make decisions on our own and the people who are part of the collaborative, I think, of this group of Midwestern States, you’ve seen that many of us have operated with very, very similar principles in mind. If you look at our stay-at-home orders, they really look very much alike.

Speaker 7: (48:26)
In terms of testing, realistically at this point, when do you see the point where everybody in Illinois is able to get a test?

J.B. Pritzker: (48:34)
Yeah.

Speaker 7: (48:34)
I mean is that a reality as you’re expanding testing?

J.B. Pritzker: (48:38)
I want to kind of give you a little bit different frame. I mean, I know what you’re saying. 12.7 million people live in the state of Illinois. You want everybody to be able to get a test. I do. I want everybody to get a test. I’d like to be able to do 100,000 tests a day. But remember that, I mean that’s a long way off, right? No state is doing 100,000 tests a day now.

J.B. Pritzker: (48:59)
But here’s the problem, I think Dr. [Zeke 00:49:03] said this just moments ago, you can give somebody a test and it’s important, it’ll tell you whether they have COVID-19 at that moment. That doesn’t mean that the next day, something that they did over the next 24 hours didn’t cause them to contract COVID-19. You’d have to do another test the next day to know if they had it the next day.

J.B. Pritzker: (49:21)
What if we reopen a factory? Should we reopen a factory and not test people every day or every, I don’t know how often we should choose to test people. Those are things that I’m working with the manufacturing industry to get the answer to.

J.B. Pritzker: (49:39)
I am working very hard. We’re trying to ramp up testing significantly. The folks who are standing with me today are a vital part of this ramping up of testing because it can’t just be done by state labs. We couldn’t ever get that done just on our own. Our state labs, I’m hoping, will be able to get to 4, 5, 6,000 tests just in our state labs, but we’re also reliant upon the FQHC, the hospitals and others to help us to ramp up testing. We want doctors offices everywhere, if they have the capability, to have a testing machine and we can get them a rapid test to take at that moment. We’d like them to do it too. I want tests available to everyone.

Speaker 6: (50:23)
Okay. We’ve got time for a few more so we’re going to have to start revamping this process here soon, I think.

Speaker 6: (50:27)
There is some concern around the nation that states are in short supply of medications needed for patients on ventilators. Is Illinois seeing that shortage of medications? If not, what can we do to make sure that doesn’t happen?

Speaker 6: (50:38)
That’s from Tina at The Sun Times.

Ngozi Ezike: (50:42)
As we increase the number of patients that are on ventilators, there are medicines that we use for sedation and even paralytics to paralyze patients that are being used more than as usual. If you go from hospital to hospital, there are different drugs that are on a shortage list. The FDA is aware. IDPH, the state doesn’t have any role in procuring the medicines, but we are aware that there are drugs that are being used more than they have been because of this COVID-19 pandemic and so we’re keeping an eye but don’t have a direct role in terms of securing those drugs.

Speaker 6: (51:24)
This is from Hannah at The Daily Line.

Speaker 6: (51:26)
Have third shifts at state labs all been fully implemented? What percentage of testing in Illinois is still being handled by slower private labs and when will those and when will dependence on those labs be phased out?

Speaker 6: (51:37)
She also has a question about Abbott machines being delivered to all community health centers, DHS facilities and prisons. Some stories alleged that they have not.

Ngozi Ezike: (51:46)
Okay. Okay, in terms of our capacity at the state lab, we have three state labs, one in Chicago, one in Springfield and one in Carbondale. Chicago is running two shifts every single day. Springfield is also running two shifts a day and our Carbondale lab is running a 24/7.

Ngozi Ezike: (52:06)
The next question is how much … Sorry.

Speaker 6: (52:08)
Let me pull it back up. Hold on.

Speaker 6: (52:11)
What percentage of testing in Illinois is still being handled by slower private labs and when will dependence on those be phased out?

Ngozi Ezike: (52:17)
Actually the number of labs that we are getting back from the commercial labs has decreased recently up to 30, 40% from my numbers over the last week. I don’t know if that’s just for now and they’re going to ramp up. I know I’ve seen the reports, many of you might have seen the reports, that there’s a tremendous backlog. I think I saw something like 160,000 specimens that had yet to be run at one company. I’m not sure what’s happening at the commercial labs. I don’t have any control over them running their tests, but that’s why we’re also working to ramp up as much as we can at our state lab and then bring other universities and hospitals to come on and ramp up their capacity as well.

Speaker 6: (53:02)
Okay, and I think the third part of her question is about the West Side testing sites we announced last week not having the supplies yet and when that will be updated.

Ngozi Ezike: (53:10)
Okay. We obviously are working as fast as we can. If anybody doesn’t have supplies, it must be en route or on its way or coming today. We definitely are trying to make that available immediately so that we can get the testing up.

Speaker 6: (53:23)
Okay, and-

J.B. Pritzker: (53:24)
I’d like to just highlight for Hannah, who asked the question, that the state labs don’t normally run more than one shift and lab technicians are in short supply. To even get a second shift at three different labs across the state, and in some areas where it’s more difficult to hire lab technicians, is really quite an amazing lift. Now think about having a third shift, 24/7. We’ve done that at one lab. The doctor has been amazing. Now we’re going to have a third shift at two other labs soon enough.

Speaker 5: (53:56)
Oh, we’ll do two more questions. Dan Patrola at The Tribune asks, why has an Illinois released the names of nursing homes where patients or staff have tested positive as well as the number of cases and deaths as other states are? What specifically is the state doing to address clusters mushrooming in nursing homes?

Ngozi Ezike: (54:14)
Another three-for there.

Ngozi Ezike: (54:17)
Yes, we are working on getting information out regarding the nursing homes. I think there might be some delays in keeping up with that, but we’re working on that. In terms of our approach to dealing with really one of our most vulnerable populations, again, we’ve talked to many times from here about how difficult it is to control outbreaks in these congregate settings, any of these settings where the people reside, sleep, live, play, eat, all in the same place. It’s a little bit hard to distance and segregate and isolate when you’re in a confined space. But we have been talking, we have some aggressive measures that we are employing where we want to identify people who are the carriers.

Ngozi Ezike: (54:58)
Of course, right now in congregate settings with visitation being essentially nil, it’s staff that probably are bringing in the virus. We have an aggressive campaign for our congregate settings to try to test all of the staff that work in these settings. We think that if we can identify staff members who are positive, maybe they don’t know they’re positive, then we can get ahead of them potentially infecting the people that they’re charged to work with.

Speaker 5: (55:27)
Okay. This’ll be our last question. From Mike at Quincy Media, a House Republican released the names and convictions of individuals you have commuted sentences for during this pandemic. How do you pick the individuals that have been released?

J.B. Pritzker: (55:40)
Well, let me point out that there are two methods that we’re following for thinking about release. One is that the director of the DOC, the department of corrections, has the ability on his own to determine that someone can be released. The criteria that he’s using is non-violent convictions and people who have already served a substantial portion of their term or have a co-morbidity or something that makes them especially vulnerable and would not pose a risk to the community. That last part, not posing a risk to the community, is an incredibly important criteria that gets reviewed very closely.

J.B. Pritzker: (56:33)
The second way is that there are appeals to the governor, to me, for clemency. Those often are the more difficult cases. These are often people who may have committed a violent crime, but it may have occurred many, many years ago. They may have served, for example, decades of a term. I can recall a couple of situations where someone was convicted at the age of 16 of being part of a situation where somebody died and they were essentially convicted of the same crime, even though they didn’t commit the crime themselves. They may have been driving the getaway car, they may have been standing nearby and part of the same group but not been part of the violence itself, but they got convicted of a murder and were sentenced sometimes with some old laws in place. They had their normal sentence doubled because of the existing laws at the time. Someone might’ve gotten 80 years for something that someone doing the exact same thing a few years later would have only gotten 40 years for.

J.B. Pritzker: (57:39)
Those are examples anyway. The decisions are made in consultation for me with, I often speak with the lieutenant governor, I often speak with Mike, internal legal counsel, but ultimately those things are charged to me and to the Department of Corrections director.

Speaker 6: (57:58)
All right. Thanks, everyone.

J.B. Pritzker: (57:59)
Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 9: (58:02)
[inaudible 00:58:11].

Ngozi Ezike: (58:16)
Yeah, the question?

Speaker 9: (58:18)
I just wanted to know what the percentage of rate of infection in African-American communities in the Chicago area is over other communities?

Ngozi Ezike: (58:28)
Chicago versus the state?

Speaker 9: (58:30)
No. In Chicago, how many [inaudible 00:58:32]