Apr 21, 2020

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 21

Illinois Briefing April 21
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsIllinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 21

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a coronavirus press briefing today, April 21. Pritzker said the Illinois peak in COVID-19 cases may come in mid-May. Read the full transcript here.


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Governor J.B. Pritzker : (01:22)
Our battle against this pandemic has been waged on two fronts. The first is what most immediately comes to mind, and that’s protecting the health and safety of our communities. But the second front is also critical, mitigation of the economic impacts of this pandemic on our residents and on the small businesses who employ them. I’ve directed my staff and agency directors to do everything in our power to help our residents who are hurting. That includes directing tens of millions of dollars to support our small businesses and offering sales tax payment delays where we can, supporting individuals and families who rent their homes by banning residential evictions, delaying income tax filings until July, increasing and expediting unemployment eligibility, and expanding Medicaid coverage.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (02:22)
There are countless people in our state agencies who are working behind the scenes day and night, seven days a week to find every possible mechanism to support our working families. They will not stop until this virus is defeated. Let me take a moment to highlight the work of one of those groups of public servants, the women and men of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which has played a key role in so many of our efforts to soften this virus’s financial impact.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (02:58)
We’ve repossession of vehicles. We’ve asked the three major national credit bureaus to refrain from negative credit reporting at this time. We’ve assisted state credit unions and banks in navigating the distribution of U.S. small business administration loans. We’ve urged those same institutions to offer payment forbearances and waive late fees, and we’ve called on mortgage lenders, servicers and banks to grant 90 day mortgage forbearances.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (03:35)
That ongoing work brings us to today’s announcement. The federal cares act provided much needed relief for those with federal student loans who are struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including automatic suspension of monthly payments and interest and halting involuntary collection activity until September, 30th of 2020. But that federal action left out the millions of people nationwide who are repaying private and non federal student loans. These are people just as affected by the financial turmoil of this pandemic as their counterparts who are covered by the cares act.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (04:23)
I’m happy to announce today that as of today, nearly 140,000 more student loan borrowers in Illinois will now get relief. IDFPR has worked tirelessly to secure loan relief options with 20 student loan servicers allowing borrowers to request a 90 day forbearance, waived late fees, no negative credit reporting, the pause of debt collection lawsuits for 90 days, and enrollment in other borrower assistance programs. These servicers include Navient, Nelnet, Edfinancial, LendKey Technologies, Upstart, MOHELA and others.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (05:11)
IDFPR worked with other jurisdictions to create this multi-state agreement which was negotiated to include borrowers in Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State. Impacted borrowers can immediately contact their loan provider to get relief with these new options. This is new, so even the lenders are getting up to speed on this. So if for any reason a borrower experiences trouble securing the agreed upon relief from their provider, you should reach out to the IDFPR division of banking, the office of the Illinois Attorney General or the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Contact information for all three of those enforcement agencies is available on our COVID-19 website, and that’s coronavirus.illinois.gov.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (06:18)
I’m so proud today to share another critical update from another of our agencies and that’s The Department of Human Services, Illinois requested an expansion of benefits to help put additional food on the table for all Illinois SNAP households with school aged children more than 300,000 in all, and that expansion has now been approved delivering an additional $112 million in food assistance to children across the state, with distribution that began yesterday, April the 20th. For families already receiving SNAP benefits, this increased assistance will be automatically added to family link cards. There’s no need for you to call or visit an office. Households with school aged children who are eligible for free or reduced meals when school is in session but do not currently receive SNAP benefits, will be able to submit a simplified application for this assistance soon, and I’ll be able to provide more information on that process in the coming days. No child should ever have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. And that’s been a goal of my administration before this pandemic and it’s more important than ever right now.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (07:51)
This change will make a real difference for 300,000 Illinois households who will have a little less to worry about when they go to the grocery store. I want to applaud our team at DHS who are doing whatever is necessary to get Illinois families through this COVID-19 crisis. So I want to thank you, thank everybody that’s here today. And now I’ll turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike for today’s medical update. Doctor.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (08:24)
Good afternoon, and thank you for the media members for covering these press briefings every day. It is vitally important that we get this message and these information out to the public so they can make informed decisions, so thank you for your work. I also want to salute and give a nod to all the lab professionals throughout the state, it is National Lab Professionals Week, and so as we think about all the COVID testing as well as all the other testing that goes on in the labs, I salute and thank all the lab professionals for their work.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (08:56)
Today I’m going to give a lot of numbers, a lot of data updates. I’ll start with the number of new cases resulted over the last 24 hours, that is 1,551, that brings our statewide total to 33,059. Unfortunately, I have to announce 119 new fatalities which brings our toll of fatalities to 1,468. Because of the severity of the illness that this virus can cause, we have been monitoring our health care capacity. We are following very closely the hospital admissions, the people who are in ICU and that are on ventilators.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (09:43)
As of last night, 4,776 individuals in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, of those, 1,226 patients were in the ICU, and 781 patients were on ventilators. 30% of hospital ICU beds across the state are open and available should anyone need intensive care. Of the ICU beds that are currently in use, 55% of all of them are being used by patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (10:21)
It’s also important to note that 60% of all the ventilators in the state are available for use. Just over half of the ventilators that are currently being used are being used by patients with COVID-19. As we continue to collect and analyze the data, we are seeing that people are recovering. As we continue to survey individuals with COVID-19 we have found that 54% of the cases reported to public health, less than two weeks ago, report no longer having symptoms and being recovered. For those who reported a positive test four weeks ago, 77.

Dr. Ezike: (11:03)
… reported positive tests four weeks ago, 77% of those reported being recovered. This is encouraging news, and I hope it will strengthen our resolve to continue the very tough sacrifices that we continue to make. We must continue to stay at home. We must continue to wear our masks, if outside. We must continue building on the progress that we have made and sustain it. Let’s keep being all in, Illinois. And with that, I will summarize comments for our Spanish speaking population.

Dr. Ezike: (11:34)
And with that, I will turn it over to Governor Pritzker.

Elizabeth Matthews: (14:48)
Good afternoon, Governor. Elizabeth Matthews, pool reporter, FOX 32.

Dr. Ezike: (14:51)
Good afternoon, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Matthews: (14:51)
I guess I’ll go first. So the models are showing, you say, that maybe our peak now, what was thought to be maybe mid-April, might now be mid-May. Can you tell us about that? And if that’s the case, why hold off on extending our stay at home order?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (15:09)
Yeah, so we’ll be talking more about our models, in the coming couple of days. But suffice to say that, we are working hard to try to make changes to the stay at home order. But, we are in the stay at home order, now. I think I’ve given enough information to people, so they understand that the peak is still yet to come. We need to be careful.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (15:35)
But I wanted to give our staff and myself enough time, to have conversations with the epidemiologists and the experts, and people in different industries, to try to understand what we could do. Not just in the very near term, about changing the stay at home order in some ways, tweaking at the edges and trying to make it easier on people. But also, what we will do going forward, if in fact the peak comes in mid-May. Or, whenever that may come, we need to have 14 days after that as you know, according to many of the experts, where the numbers are going down. So we’re looking at all of those things, we’re working on it now.

Elizabeth Matthews: (16:17)
So just as a follow up, so say if we don’t hit that peak until mid-May, do we have to be, in your belief, do we have to be in a stay at home order until we hit that peak?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (16:28)
Well, again, we will be making some changes to the stay at home order as it is, but it is true that it is working. And so, to pull it off, a stay at home order, it seems to me to remove it, as I see some other governors may want to do, to remove it entirely is to simply open everything back up to infection.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (16:50)
We heard Dr. Ezike saying, in the last couple of days, that they are not, the number of people that are getting by a single person who is infected, has gone down significantly since we put the stay at home order in place. That will go right back up again, if you remove all the restrictions.

Elizabeth Matthews: (17:07)
Gotcha. Can you give us an update on McCormick Place? Number of patients that are there currently, all COVID-19, from our understanding. Doctor, either you or Dr. Ezike. Number of patients, how many have been treated, total? Is the 3000 beds, is that still in place for Friday? And if it’s not, do we need those beds? Do we halt the assembly, of that?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (17:30)
I’ll give the non medical part of that answer, which is, we’re looking at all of the plans that we put in place. Remember, the original projections for our state were that we were going to see, before the stay at home order and even right after the stay at home order the projections, even the public models, which aren’t that great. But even those public models, as well as the private ones that we were looking at, showed us off the charts. And needing a lot more hospital beds than exist in the state today, which is why we’ve been building up the hospital capacity within each hospital, in addition to having these alternate care facilities.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (18:09)
So we were preparing and working very hard to make sure that we have all the beds that we need. I’m hopeful that we won’t need everything that we’ve made plans for. And you’ve asked about the one facility, McCormick Place. I’m hopeful that we won’t need to build out every part of that. But we did want to be prepared, and we still do, because one of the challenges that we have is we don’t really know. A model is simply a model, and you have to actually get to the peak and start down the other side of it, before you know that you’ve hit a peak.

Elizabeth Matthews: (18:44)
So, April 24th, was that the date for the 3000 beds? Is that correct?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (18:48)
Yes. I think that was, April 24th is Friday, I think?

Elizabeth Matthews: (18:51)

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (18:51)
Is that right? Yeah.

Elizabeth Matthews: (18:53)
So we’re going to hit that?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (18:53)
Well I, again, we’re looking at making a few adjustments to that, but we’ll make announcement as that happens. We’re looking at making some adjustments, but still, we would have significant capacity at McCormick Place going forward. Just in case, not knowing where the peak really will end up.

Elizabeth Matthews: (19:10)
And then another question about McCormick Place, maybe you could answer. The cost of keeping it up every day. Do we have that projection?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (19:16)
I don’t have that projection for you, but certainly, we’ll be providing all of that. And remember some of that cost, much of that cost will be borne by the federal government, which in the Cares Act provided funding for states to pay for coronavirus expenditures, as well as for hospitals. Some of that will get covered. And then, even our National Guard, which was very much involved in that, we’ll have reimbursement for their expenses.

Elizabeth Matthews: (19:45)
Okay. Dr Ezike, would you like to comment about how many patients are there now? How many have been treated there, and where are they coming from? What hospitals or what regions?

Dr. Ezike: (19:54)
So I think it’s a wonderful testament and testimony to the amazing leadership that we’ve had here, under Governor Pritzker, that we have had ample resources, ample beds available for anybody who developed COVID-19. And in preparing for the worst situation but aggressively working to make sure that that wasn’t a reality, we have not exceeded that capacity, throughout the state.

Dr. Ezike: (20:19)
Our hardest hit area, as probably people know, has been the Chicagoland area. Chicagoland, Cook County and the surrounding, collar counties. And so, we’ve had a few patients, less than a dozen patients, that have been transferred from Chicago area, more Cook County and surrounding county, hospitals. Less than a dozen patients have been treated at McCormick. And again, a testimony to the fact that we made aggressive moves in the beginning, that kept us from realizing the expected peak.

Elizabeth Matthews: (20:52)
Thank you Dr. Ezike.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (20:54)
Yeah, but can I just remind you that, the consequence of being under-prepared would be the loss of life. And the consequence of being over-prepared would be, that we built out more than we may have needed. And nobody can know exactly where we’ll end up, until much after we’ve hit the peak and moved off of it.

Elizabeth Matthews: (21:13)
This is from my colleague, Mike Flannery. “The New York Times has a front page story today reporting it could take years before New York City completely recovers from the pandemic. Speaking of in particular, theater, restaurants, tourism related industry. Are we going to see that in Chicago as well?”

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (21:28)
Well, I don’t know. And I don’t think anybody really knows, but I certainly have said to you, that I think if we can get a treatment and a vaccine, ultimately, that the damage that is suggested by an article like that wouldn’t be visited as dangerously or as difficult, on the economies of our states.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (21:54)
So, I can’t really answer it. And we can see what’s happened to the economy already, in this short period of time. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to recover much more quickly, than is being-

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (22:03)
… period of time, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to recover much more quickly, and that is being suggested by that.

Elizabeth: (22:05)
This is from Univision for the governor and Dr. Ezike. We have a number of concerts that were set to take place in the month of May, is it safe to say that they’re canceled?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (22:13)
I think I just did read actually that a number of them were canceled in Chicago, so I think that probably answers the question.

Elizabeth: (22:21)
From Eric Horng with ABC Seven. Even as you begin to reopen businesses on May 1st, are there enough hand sanitizers, cleansers for a lot of these businesses, especially small mom-and-pop places? Large companies can’t even get their hands on enough hand sanitizers and cleanser. Is there enough of that type of material to be able to help businesses reopen?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (22:41)
Yeah. I want to caution that I don’t think there’s going to be some mass opening of lots and lots and lots of businesses on May 1. But to the point, do we have enough hand sanitizer or dispensers? I don’t think anybody has been fully prepared for this. Even each industry as it looks at, and I’ve asked industries to do this, to look at how would you reopen? How would it work? There’s no doubt that hand sanitizer and the use of PPE is going to be an important part of that. Will businesses provide PPE? That’s a question. Will hand sanitizer be available to everybody that walks in the door? Should it be required?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (23:23)
I agree that right now I don’t think anybody would say that there’s enough of that going on. We’re also going to have to develop some norms that people just understand that as you’re walking into a place, getting hand sanitizer and making sure that you’ve used it or making sure your mask is on as you enter someplace. I think those are all things that people are going to have to get used to and businesses are going to have to adjust too to make sure that their customers are protected.

Elizabeth: (23:51)
Last question from me. A lot of people have been asking about this and other states are starting to open, obviously other states are in different phases when it comes to this, golf courses. People are so anxious just to get out on the green, to be outside. Golf courses, maybe you could do it in a socially-distant kind of way. Is there any talk about opening up those type of sectors when we go into that? Does that all kind of come into your decision making?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (24:15)
Yeah, we’re looking at lots of things like that. We understand summer is different than what we’ve had up to now, which has been colder weather. We want to consider all of those things. That’s just one of the many, many things that we’ve tried to take into consideration. But I do want to remind everybody that, once again, we have bent the curve because we have had a stay-at-home order. The fact of a stay-at-home order in general being a very positive thing before we ever have enough testing, because there isn’t enough testing and there won’t be for some time to really open everything up, and the fact that we were going to need, I mean a whole lot more, it means we have to leave things still in a place that seems not normal to everybody and won’t be for some time. But we’re going to work hard to make it more normal and make it easier for people. Certainly, we want people to be able to get outside and enjoy themselves.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (25:18)
Thank you very much, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: (25:19)
Okay, we’ll go to questions from reporters online. Shia from Politico asks: We see Senate President Harmon has asked for financial aid from Congress. To what extent are you asking for financial help, lobbying Congress members talking on the phone? How many people are assigned to these tasks?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (25:35)
Well, I don’t think there’s anything that can be more effective than a governor calling another state governor and talking to them about reaching out to their delegations. A governor does have the ear of members of their delegation. I’ve made many, many calls like that on behalf of our common interests in all the 50 States to get the federal government to help us with support for our states and for the industries in our states and so on. I do that quite often and a number of members of my staff have also been on the phone with staff members of those various representatives and senators across the nation.

Elizabeth: (26:20)
Bruce Rushton from Springfield Times. How much has the state spent on former Vibra Hospital in Springfield, and can you break down the costs paid between the building owner and the operational and remodeling costs?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (26:31)
I can’t do that for you right here at the podium. I don’t have it in front of me. But at this moment there’s been no work done on Vibra, so at least that part of any expenditure has not been undertaken.

Elizabeth: (26:47)
Pete McMurray at WGN Radio. For Dr. Ngozi Ezike, how worried are you for a second wave of COVID-19 this fall?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (26:58)
I think we should be concerned. Obviously, we’re following information and data that’s coming from all around the world. We know that the fall is already traditionally an established time for flu outbreaks and flu. The flu is our epidemic that we see on a scheduled basis. If there was supposed to be any resurgence, we could see why that would be at that time. If you had COVID as well as flu, it’s very concerning that that could be a significant second wave or a second surge. That’s why without a treatment, without a vaccine for COVID, those two overlaid could be very, very problematic.

Elizabeth: (27:46)
John Kraft asks, have either you or the IDPH director issued a directive that anyone who tests positive in another state with the residents in Illinois be counted as an Illinois case?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (28:00)
There are rules on how to count cases. We’ve had many situations that were a little complicated where an individual was maybe on vacation here and was found to be positive, and so later we had to adjust the count and shift that to another state and, likewise, people who are outside of Illinois, but who have their primary residence, that was [inaudible 00:06:19]. Those changes are made as we identify what the primary residence is.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (28:25)
Those are relatively few and far between. As far as I have seen.

Elizabeth: (28:29)
Ben Cox at WLDS in Jacksonville is asking about IDOC redeploying guards and staff from a west central Illinois prison to Stateville. IDOC couldn’t confirm the numbers and from where, but how long has this been going on in terms of having people work at different facilities?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (28:46)
It’s only done when there are not enough workers at a particular facility. I can’t tell you exactly how long, but it’s in the weeks, let’s say, time period. But we want to make sure that everybody is safe in each of these facilities. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve made sure that we have enough staffing wherever it may be needed because some staff end up needing to be quarantined or needing to stay home because they’re ill.

Elizabeth: (29:18)
Jamie Monks at the Tribune says, you’re predicting Illinois will reach its peak in mid-May. What models are you using to reach that conclusion? Can you expand on what reopening plans vary by region may look like for Illinois and specific differences you’re considering?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (29:34)
Will be talking more about our curve that we’ve been using and continue to use in the very near future. Obviously from that we’ll be talking about what changes will be made and how we might think about what the future opening of different kinds of industries and businesses will be.

Elizabeth: (29:59)
Kelly from Block Club. If masks are required in cities like Chicago, how will your administration ensure everyone, particularly low-income people, have access to face coverings and can go into public?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (30:09)
Yeah. It was pointed out to me yesterday by one of the elected officials I was talking to that I really should stop using the word mask and I should start using the word face covering because the truth is that you don’t need to have an official mask. That’s not what everybody is suggesting, what doctors are saying. You do need to cover your nose and mouth with a, can be a T-shirt. I saw a video of how you can prepare a T-shirt for yourself as a mask. There are lots of different things, fabric masks that you can create for yourself. There are, again, YouTube videos to show you how to even make one. I can’t sew, but even I could follow the instructions for this. We need face coverings.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (30:55)
For people who cannot afford them, I agree with you that I would like very much to make face coverings more available. I think that would probably be more in the disposable types. We’re looking at that and how we would do that, again, industry by industry and then for people who just want to go outside. I’d like to make it more available, so we’ll be thinking and talking about that.

Elizabeth: (31:20)
Mike Miletich at Quincy has a long one, so it’s broken up, so bear with me here. We were told by the Fulton County board chair that five correctional officers from the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton were promised a 14-day paid quarantine plus a COVID-19 test after volunteering to work at Stateville Correctional Center. Can the governor confirm this and tell us what conversations he’s had with DOC about this matter?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (31:46)
That is a subject of labor negotiations, so that’s an ongoing conversation.

Elizabeth: (31:51)
Okay. Jim Haggerty at Rock River Times. Governor, what would you say to people who feel the shutdown is a punishment driven largely by COVID situation in Chicago, one that has no chance affecting them when they are many, many miles from the city?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (32:05)
Punishment? Hmm. That is an odd word to use. We are in a global pandemic. When this broke out, nobody, nobody knew how fast this would travel, nobody knew who was most susceptible to it, nobody knew how to counter its effects. Much of that information, although we’ve discovered some, is still unknown to experts. In all due caution to protect all of the people of the state of Illinois, we’ve put orders in place that would keep people from, we would keep people healthy and safe and hopefully prevent people from getting COVID-19 who otherwise might.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker: (32:48)
In terms of the different effects in different parts of the state, it’s correct to say that in more rural areas there have been fewer cases. The in-

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (33:03)
… rural areas there have been fewer cases. The interesting thing to look at, and there are places you can go online to look at this too, what number of days the doubling time is four different counties you can find that online, and you find different areas of the state even though they have smaller populations, have a higher doubling time than some very urban areas of the state. So there is no punishment involved here. The goal here is to do the right thing for everybody and it’s true that in some areas of the state there’s been a lower infection rate and a lower doubling time and so that needs to be taken into consideration as we make changes.

Questioner: (33:43)
Ryan at Illinois Health News, how do you respond to concerns from nursing home groups that their facilities were not prioritized soon enough by the administration, including testing and PPE? They argue that this has led to even worse shortages of PPE and more positive cases and facilities as many cases went undiagnosed for limited access to testing.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (34:03)
Who is it that made the, not the questioner, but made the statement about PPE not being available?

Questioner: (34:09)
I think it’s an associate.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (34:09)
Okay. So I would just say this, that we have been from very early on, and I spoke about this yesterday, I hope you’ll go back and look at it because I’m not sure I can repeat it all for you right now, but from very early on, we started talking about in dealing with the problem in nursing homes in early March. This is before we ever had a disaster proclamation in the state and long before we ever had a stay at home order. We shut down visitation at nursing homes and began to do wellness checks of the personnel there. And then as more was known about how outbreaks in nursing homes occur, we made sure that everybody understood, not just that there’s PPE available, and by the way, your local County Department of Public Health is provided with all of the PPE that they ask for from the state. That’s why we’ve been out acquiring PPE. They provide it to the local nursing home and then we’ve been training nursing home personnel about how to put on that PPE, wear that PPE properly and making sure that all precautions are taken to separate out people who are COVID positive from those who are not and doing testing and we’re doing even more testing now. So there’s quite a lot being done. I don’t think it would be fair to say that we have not provided PPE to nursing homes or to the counties to provide to their nursing homes, but we certainly want to know when there are nursing homes where you believe there is not PPE being made available every day to the people in those nursing homes where there are COVID positive patients, you should let our IDPH know. Dr. Ezike and her staff are all over this and they want to make sure that every one of our seniors is protected.

Questioner: (36:07)
This is Tiffany Walden at tribe.com. Have antibody tests but made available to medical practitioners? What are healthcare workers advise to do if they test positive for COVID-19 or the COVID-19 antibodies? Is it safe for them to continue practicing medicine?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (36:22)
So a couple of things I want to make sure you understand. The antibody tests are as yet a bit unproven, or at least some are and some are more effective, some are less. It is not widely used by states or really anywhere. There are a body of researchers who are using antibody tests right now to determine whether people who have the antibodies in fact are immune. So that is not even a proven fact yet. So that’s why we’re not providing antibody tests widely. We don’t provide that right now. What we want to know is where are there outbreaks? Where are people getting COVID-19 and then we want to make sure and contact trace all the people that are associated with all those who are tested positive so that we can keep this from spreading and get that are not that number of people that get infected by a single infected person down.

Questioner: (37:20)
Dave McKinney at WBEZ. Governors in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina will let most businesses reopen May one even as COVID case loads and deaths rise. Have you ruled that out here and would you consider limiting travel to Illinois from these states?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (37:35)
I have ruled out what they’re doing in Georgia and I’m not sure about all the other states, but if they’re all doing the same thing, which is essentially opening everything up, yes, I have ruled that out for the time being because as I have said time and time again, in order for us to truly open things up, we need tracing, we need testing, we need a treatment available and we need a widespread availability of PPE and we don’t have those things available to us today. The treatment, of course, is something that’s not in our control. We are working on all the other three of those things to make sure that we are ready. But remember, Illinois is not even close to its peak. I mean, we’re weeks away now and you won’t really know you’ve hit your peak until you’re on the other side of it and are going down.

Questioner: (38:22)
This is from [Shrudy 00:38:23] at Bloomberg. Can you comment on how Illinois is going to close its projected budget deficits? What tools are you considering such as bonds for pension payments? Do you expect service cuts or layoffs to state employees?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (38:34)
Well, some of that I hope will get answered by the federal government. Congress is considering a package, as I understand, that would provide more aid to the states and local governments and that will have a big impact on our decision making with regard to our budget. But of course, everything is on the table for consideration in the sense that I’m discussing with the members of the House and the Senate how they want to proceed and what ideas we have and they have. This is an all hands on deck challenge, the state of our budget for the state of Illinois, and so we’re looking at everything.

Questioner: (39:17)
This is Greg Bishop at The Center Square. How long do you feel comfortable governing by executive order without checks on your authority from the legislature or any potential legal action in the judicial branch?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (39:30)
Hmm. I don’t feel comfortable at all that I would like to continue doing this. We’re in a worldwide pandemic. We’re in an emergency situation. We’re under a disaster proclamation because people are dying and people are getting sick, and so as soon as we can get on the other side of this challenge, listen, I want regular order. There’s so many things that you’ve heard me talk about the things that I want to accomplish for the people of the state of Illinois, and those can’t be accomplished in the context of a pandemic.

Questioner: (40:03)
Dave Dahl’s our last question. He said why release convicted killers?

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (40:07)
Hmm. Well, I think some of you may know and understand that, because I’ve said it many times from this podium, that I want to keep the risk to people across the state of Illinois as low as possible the risk of catching COVID-19 and the risk that might occur from somebody who has done something wrong in their past. And so every time I consider a situation of somebody who’s asking for a pardon or commutation of their sentence, I’m taking into account how to make sure that we’re keeping the risk extraordinarily low. For example, I have granted commutations to people who have been diagnosed with stage four cancer and are likely to die in three months hence, and they’re confined to a bed, they can’t move around very much and in the last three months of their life, it seemed to me that it would not be inappropriate for me to let them be with their family. Again, they’re suffering and, and it’s also an alleviation of burden upon our prison system.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (41:25)
So I think this is a … it’s the right and the constitutional privilege granted to a governor to consider pardons and commutations, and in the context of a pandemic, in the context of what we’re going through now with COVID-19, trying to make sure that we keep our prison officials, our officers who are working in the prisons and the people who are in prison, who some of them are nonviolent criminals who are going to be let out in the next year anyway, to make sure that we’re making space in those prisons and keeping everybody as safe as possible. Those are all some considerations that I give to pardons and commutations in this moment.

Questioner: (42:14)
Thank you.

Governor J.B. Pritzker : (42:14)
Thank you.

Mike Garrigan: (42:17)
You’ve just heard from Governor J.B. Pritzker announcing 1,551 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Illinois and 119 new deaths, the youngest being a Boone County man that we reported on earlier in his twenties. The total death toll in the state is 32 shy of 1500. The number of total positive cases inches past the 33,000 mark. Tonight at five, we’ll talk to a local woman who recovered from the virus, plus look at how the pandemic has affected stateline farmers. Again, that’s tonight on 23 News at Five. Until then, stay healthy and safe.

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