Apr 24, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 24
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a coronavirus press briefing today, April 24. Pritzker talked about his new modified stay at home orders. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Pritzker: (00:01)
… Ramadan Mubarak, from my family to yours, I want to offer our best wishes as you begin your recognition of this Holy month. Despite the crisis that we’re living through, the spiritual strength and charity represented by this month are especially inspirational in these trying times.
Governor Pritzker: (00:22)
Today’s update is focused on testing. Vital to our efforts to reduce social restrictions, get our economy going, and keep the residents of our state safe is the expansion of testing for COVID 19 infections. Today I’m proud to be joined by Gabriel Cummings, president of North Shore University Health System Highland Park Hospital, which has become an important partner in expanding testing in Illinois.
Governor Pritzker: (00:54)
Because of partners like North Shore, we are making progress toward increased testing across the board. Last week, when we focused our conversation on testing, we had tested 5,660 people in the preceding 24 hours. On Wednesday and yesterday, we surpassed 9,000 tests. Today we met our goal of 10,000 daily tests.
Governor Pritzker: (01:22)
In fact, we surpassed it, with 16,124. The overall positive rate for today’s batch of tests is about 17%, which is well below our cumulative average of 21%. It’s too early to say whether this is a result of expanded testing criteria versus an indicator of flattening the curve, but it’s a positive sign nonetheless for everyone when more people are getting tested and there is a lower ratio of positives.
Governor Pritzker: (01:57)
Surpassing 10,000 tests is a very important milestone, not only because it allows us to isolate more of those who are COVID positive so that they don’t spread the infection, but also because it moves us in the direction of expanding our surveillance for outbreaks.
Governor Pritzker: (02:15)
More testing means we can potentially lower the infection rate, so we’re going to continue to push that number up. Our ability to test and get results quickly is key to our ability to map the presence of this virus and to gradually reduce our mitigation measures and get more people back to work. In the face of this virus testing is really key to everything, to everything else that we need to do to get Illinois moving again.
Governor Pritzker: (02:48)
There’s still more work to do to maintain and build on this progress, but reaching and surpassing the 10,000 mark is a great first step. I think it’s important for everyone to know how we arrived at this marker. Getting to this level of testing has been a multifaceted effort; requiring us to circumvent traditional supply chains, stand up non traditional testing sites, and work with Illinois world-class healthcare institutions and research universities.
Governor Pritzker: (03:20)
For example, university partners such as Illinois Tech and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and the University Of Illinois At Chicago and the University of Illinois Urbana Champagne are playing a key role in developing VTM and assisting with the procurement of swabs. Those supplies have allowed our state labs to more than double our daily output in the last week and we anticipate being able to push that number higher in the coming days and weeks. That’s for just our state owned labs.
Governor Pritzker: (03:56)
We’re also partnered with hospital and commercial labs where we provide supplies and they’ve agreed to run more specimens to deliver more test results. Rounding out the components necessary to do more testing, we needed to collect more specimens, so we partnered with local health clinics across the state, like the federally qualified health centers, which already are trusted in their communities.
Governor Pritzker: (04:24)
They’ve helped us expand the number of locations, taking specimens for testing. Including our five newly created state run drive through locations. We now have 112 public testing sites in every one of the IDPHs 11 regions; including eight sites in the Rockford region, eight sites in the Peoria region, four sites in the Springfield region, four in the Edwardsville region, 31 sites in the Marion region, eight sites in the champagne region, 22 sites in the city of Chicago, nine sites in the Southwest suburbs, three sites in the West suburbs, five sites in the Northwest suburbs and 10 sites in the North suburbs.
Governor Pritzker: (05:19)
Remember, those are only the sites that are available to the public and the tests at those locations are entirely free. Beyond those 112 locations, there are healthcare providers that conduct tests for their own existing patients. The full list of public testing sites with hours, testing parameters, and contact information is available on our Coronavirus website, Coronavirus.Illinois.gov. Again, testing at our public sites, which you can find at our coronavirus website is entirely free.
Governor Pritzker: (05:59)
I also want to talk briefly today about antibody tests, which have been in the headlines recently and have created a lot of buzz. So I want to make sure that people have the facts about whether and how these tests are useful. In theory, these tests could be an effective tool. We’re craving answers in an uncertain time and antibody tests offer the potential for more security, but I’m afraid we’ve seen many of these tests promoted in a way that errs on the side of irresponsible.
Governor Pritzker: (06:32)
To be clear, these tests are not quite where we need them to be to offer a true metric of immunity in Illinois. This is not an Illinois specific problem. As of today, there still are no antibody blood tests certifiably proven to accurately and consistently diagnosed COVID 19 antibodies. There are several reasons for that.
Governor Pritzker: (06:57)
First, no one yet knows the true sensitivity and specificity of these tests. That is, how accurate or inaccurate they are. Obviously you want a test to be accurate and not offer many false positives or false negatives. That kind of accuracy is in part tied to how long it’s been since a person potentially had the virus since it takes each of us time to produce antibodies and it’s in part tied to the quality of the test. Second, this is a novel virus entirely new, so researchers don’t yet know the extent to which having COVID 19 antibodies equals having immunity. That’s a question whose answers will only be revealed over weeks or months and maybe even years. For example, is there a certain exposure level at which antibodies don’t protect you? Or if you can become immune, how long would immunity last?
Governor Pritzker: (08:03)
Third, it’s not yet confirmed that these tests are able to explicitly identify COVID 19 antibodies versus Coronaviruses that caused things like the common cold. The tests must definitively identify antibodies for COVID 19 and nothing else for them to be fully effective. Understanding the presence of antibodies and immunity in our communities would be extremely important to our COVID 19 response. So don’t take these facts to mean anything else. I just want to be sure that we all understand where the research is right now on the development of tests for antibodies.
Governor Pritzker: (08:47)
There are active validation studies for antibodies tests across the nation and the world as well as here in Illinois. We’re monitoring those studies and we’re planning how we could deploy those tests when they’re ready. As soon as they prove themselves accurate and reliable, I will make it a priority to get them into our communities as widely as we can.
Governor Pritzker: (09:13)
What I won’t do is run full speed ahead with these tests before they’re proven because among other things we would be offering people a false sense of security. I’ve said since the beginning that here in Illinois we will rely on factual data and we will lead with the science. That and the Goodwill of the people of Illinois will be what sees us through this pandemic. With that, I’d like to turn it over to Dr Ngozi Ezike for today’s medical update.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (09:47)
Thank you, sir. Thank you so much Governor and good afternoon everyone. Today IDPH reports 2,724 new cases of COVID 19 in Illinois. This is the largest 24 hour increase we have seen to date. However, yesterday we also saw the greatest number of test results that were reported in a 24 hour period with over 16,000 specimens.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (10:21)
Obviously when you test more people you are going to find more cases. That brings our total case count for the state of Illinois to 39, 658. Unfortunately, 108 Illinoisans lost their battle with COVID 19 and that brings our sobering death toll unto 1,795 lives lost.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (10:49)
In terms of numbers of individuals that were hospitalized in Illinois, 4,828 people were hospitalized across our state and 25% of those patients or 1,225 were in the ICU. And 58% of those ICU patients or 709 patients were on ventilators.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (11:16)
As the governor mentioned, COVID 19 testing is critical. It is not only important to identify individuals who need to be isolated or treated in a hospital, but it also informs our efforts on how to stop the spread and to identify the areas where there is more spread.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (11:36)
We need to know at what level of the virus is circulating and the areas that we need to implement more aggressive, more targeted efforts. IDPH is pushing testing materials to more and more longterm care facilities. Since last Friday we have pushed testing materials to 37 different longterm care facilities, some who are actively experiencing outbreaks and some that had not identified a single case.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (12:05)
Our hope is that by testing staff and residents in the longterm care facilities located in areas with high levels of community transmission, we can detect cases earlier and potentially before an outbreak occurs. Testing is one of the very key elements to helping us stop spread and overcome this pandemic.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (12:27)
Please know Governor Pritzker and IDPH, we continue to do everything we can to respond to this pandemic. You are doing your part as well and your part has resulted in significant strides. We have flattened the curve. We have lowered the amount of lives lost. I encourage people to remain vigilant. We will get through this. We will do that by staying at home, by wearing mask when outside, washing our hands incessantly, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces. We will all do this together. We will remain all in Illinois.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (13:09)
And with that I will translate comments into Spanish. [ foreign language 00: 13:11]. [foreign language 00:14:00]. [foreign language 00:14:58].
Dr. Ezike: (16:07)
[foreign language 00:00:01 Spanish]. And with that I will turn it over to Gabrielle Cummings.
Gabrielle Cummings: (16:16)
Thank you Dr. Ezike. Thank you Governor Pritzker. On behalf of North Shore University Health System, which includes Evanston, Glenbrook, Highland Park, Skokie and Swedish Hospitals, our CEO, JP Gallagher, and thousands of our heroic healthcare professionals, thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Gabrielle Cummings: (16:34)
As early as January when we first learned about COVID-19, our leadership team quickly organized system wide resources to meet the impending challenge. As part of our effort, we turned to developing aggressive testing capabilities to support our immediate patient needs, as well as Illinois’ goal of achieving 10,000 tests per day. We have an extraordinary leader in Dr. Karen Kaul, who serves as our Chair of Pathology. Under Dr. Kaul’s direction and with the work of her incredible team, North Shore was the first health system in Illinois to implement our own fully validated in house COVID-19 test based upon the published data from the CDC laboratory.
Gabrielle Cummings: (17:14)
Additionally, we worked in conjunction with IDPH to ensure that our test was fully validated and performed identically to theirs. We began testing on March 12th at a rate of about 400 patients per day. Then with additional lab equipment and additional supply investments, we’ve expanded that capacity to test 1,200 patients daily. With this, we were able to support our patient testing needs including inpatient support, especially for our dedicated respiratory COVID hospital, our four COVID focused immediate care super sites, our drive through test facilities, and our emergency departments. We’ve also set up screening processes through our e-visits and dedicated COVID-19 Health Hotline. This has helped to identify those patients who require testing or further in-person medical care.
Gabrielle Cummings: (18:06)
Recently, we’ve been able to extend our testing to support our patients and caregivers for neighboring hospitals and we are very proud of this. And it’s helped to decompress their EDS and their ICUs. We’re also proud to support testing for a freestanding state facility for first responders and healthcare workers, which is located in Harwood Heights. Our belief is that when faced with a crisis such as this, we are colleagues supporting one another in every way that we can.
Gabrielle Cummings: (18:33)
To date, we have processed and completed nearly 25,000 tests. This represents about 13% of total testing in Illinois. As we continue to deliver care and perform testing, the supply chain remains a challenge. Most significantly, sourcing reagents and testing swabs and the costs that come with it. To be clear, the best thing we can do for our patients is to ensure that our caregivers are working under the safest conditions and we are sparing no cost to make that happen.
Gabrielle Cummings: (19:02)
We know that testing is a critical component to reopen the economy and at North Shore University Health System, we look forward to our continued partnership with the State to expand our capabilities and testing services to win the fight against COVID-19. Thank you, and I’ll turn it back over to the governor.
Governor Pritzker: (19:24)
Thank you. Thank you very much Gabrielle, and happy to take any questions.
Good afternoon, Governor, doctor.
Governor Pritzker: (19:29)
Good afternoon Elizabeth.
Ms. Cummings. Some questions from me and then we’ll get to some from my colleagues. So the phases that you mentioned yesterday, obviously Stay at Home extended through the end of May. The phases that you mentioned, are those to come during May or are they to come in June?
Governor Pritzker: (19:47)
They’ll come as soon as we possibly can and in order to get to the next phase, we really need to see our peak and begin to move downward for, I think the suggestion of 14 days is the right one. And so seeing a downward movement 14 days in a row would give us a pretty good indication that we’re heading in the right direction on a consistent basis.
So the restrictions that we have in place now, we’re kind of what we’re going to live with until we see that peak and then another two weeks?
Governor Pritzker: (20:14)
The ones that’ll go in place May one, that’s correct.
Governor Pritzker: (20:17)
That’s correct. Which are different than the ones that have been in place in April. That’s right.
Thank you for clarifying that. The antibody testing, there are a lot of places that are offering it. Are you suggesting people just kind of hold off for right now and not get that testing done?
Governor Pritzker: (20:33)
No, I’m just explaining why we’re not rushing ahead with massive antibody testing. The fact is that verifying those tests has been difficult for everybody and we don’t want people to get false negatives or false positives that would lead people to believe that they’re immune or that they’re not immune and mistakenly. So we just want to make sure that we have the right information that is available with the tests that actually are effective. And so we’re not going to plunge into that ourselves at the state level. Having said that, there are hospitals and other people who are using serology tests and they’re working with the fact that there’s some percentage of those that are going to be negative or positive falsely.
Okay, baseball. Do you think baseball will be played here in Chicago this summer?
Governor Pritzker: (21:25)
I hope so, but I don’t know.
Okay. We’ll get onto some other questions. This comes from CBS Two’s Tara Molina. Can you give us the exact number of people being hired to help IDS with the unemployment claims? We’ve gotten news tips from Chicagoans asking how they can apply for those jobs.
Governor Pritzker: (21:40)
Yeah, so we certainly want people to reach out to IDES. That would be the best way to find out. They go through a process, as you know, when you get hired for the state. We’ve tried to speed that process up for CMS, but as you know, we also hired an outside firm to help us with some overflow of calls and so on. So we’ll be sure and make, sorry. We’ll be sure to have IDES post on its website how people could apply for any available positions. It’s an excellent point. If it’s not already available on the website, I’ll make sure that it is.
Okay. Why not open the phone lines longer, for longer hours, until the IDS bottleneck kind of slows down?
Governor Pritzker: (22:24)
Yeah. So one of the things I explained to a little while ago when I was talking about unemployment as one of the featured topics for the day was that the federal government actually has requirements of training and that training requirement is rather lengthy process. And because people are giving their personal information to somebody over the phone and you wouldn’t want to give that to somebody who might misuse that information or doesn’t understand how private that information really is.
Governor Pritzker: (22:52)
And so it’s very hard to expand the workforce. We’re doing it but very hard to do it. And so leaving, when you say leaving it open longer, people are working over time, but in terms of running a second or a third shift, again, you would need more people and the training is really a gating issue. Again, having said that, we’ve expanded the phone lines and the number of people that are covering those phones who are already IDES employees but have been repositioned so that there are, as I recall the last time I looked at the statistics and I look at them reasonably frequently, we’re doing about three to four times the number of calls now in a day that we were doing at the beginning of this, let alone last year where it’s an even larger multiple.
Okay. This question comes from Samantha Chapman, ABC 7. Some gig workers and independent contractors have reached out to us saying that they haven’t been able to file for unemployment. In addition, we continue to receive a number of calls from people who believe the online benefit system is flawed. They’re unable to get validated. What should they do when they anxiously await assistance from the state?
Governor Pritzker: (24:02)
So the people who are eligible under the federal guidelines for independent contractors need to go through, they should now go through the process and get rejected essentially. Right? But you’ll be in the system. That’s an important thing. And when our process at IDES for independent contractors becomes live, which I talked about earlier, would be in early second week of May, then your application would then become eligible for revalidation I guess is the right way to say it. So that’s what people should do even now getting ready for the week of May 11th.
This reminds me of a question that I had received via email from a viewer. They had not worked at their place of employment long enough to qualify for unemployment. What is a person supposed to do in a situation like that?
Governor Pritzker: (24:57)
Yeah. I don’t know the answer to that question, so let me look into that. We’ll get you the answer to that. Jordan, as someone who hasn’t worked long enough. I mean there are lots of other supports that we’ve created for people including rent assistance and the availability of food at food banks and other things that are supports for families. But unemployment benefits, if you’re not qualified for those, I’m not sure what the process is, but I’ll make sure we find out.
Thank you Governor. This is from my colleague, FOX 32, Tia Ewing. The Symphony of Joliet nursing home says that they need the National Guard to assist them in conducting tests. The more we can test, the more we can prevent the spread of virus. Is the Governor’s office looking in to doing this at this facility or any others?
Governor Pritzker: (25:43)
Indeed. The whole point of expanding testing across the board has been so that we can go in starting with people who are very vulnerable. Also our first responders, making sure that we really cover the waterfront so to speak of everybody that is in let’s say a priority one status. Nursing home residents and the staff at nursing homes are certainly in that category. And indeed, Dr. Ezike talked about I think yesterday or the day before, the fact that we’ve been going in. In fact we’ve identified the nursing homes, we’re going in ratably I guess is the right word every day to test a new nursing home to make sure we get everybody there tested in the ones where there are no COVID positives already, to make sure that we can keep it from getting COVID positive.
Governor Pritzker: (26:34)
And then in the ones where there are COVIDs, we’re assuming everybody is infected, right? I mean we’re treating it as if everybody is infected.
Do you know, Dr. Ezike, do you know if Symphony has been… If the National Guard or if there’s been assistance at Symphony of Joliet?
Dr. Ezike: (26:49)
Yeah, so I know that we have had a lot of support that we have offered in the form of IDPH staff, our University of Illinois at Chicago Infectious Disease Consultants. If they have made a special request for Illinois National Guard, we probably would have fulfilled it. I can’t tell you off the top of my head, but we are working… The nursing home would work with their local health department who knows how to put the request through our emergency operating center and then those requests go up the chain and then we are trying to outsource either Strike Teams or whether it’s the Guard, but getting the resources that people need to do the work that needs to be done.
I have another question for you, Dr. Ezike.
Governor Pritzker: (27:28)
This is from Marissa Parra with CBS 2. It seems to be harder to find numbers on COVID-19 recovery or hospital releases here in Illinois opposed to some other states. Maryland, it’s listed with the rest of the daily numbers. We know that you’ve explained the difficulty in getting this data before, but why are other states reporting daily and we aren’t?
Dr. Ezike: (27:48)
Yeah, well we have been trying to share with you recovery data. I try to update that once a week. In terms of us being able to pull out the hospital data, that is something again that we have to have the input before we can put the output. And so when we have missing pieces of data and if you push that out, it actually creates more questions than it offers answers in terms of if the numbers don’t match. But we’re working with all of our partners to try to get as much data put in and updated in a timely basis. A lot of times even if we put out some data, there would be additional inputs that would come that would make us have to update the data and I know that that can be a little bit confusing as well, but we have nothing but the goal of being transparent, but it’s also important to be able to put out a trusted and reliable data as well.
Perfect. Thank you doctor. For the Governor, this is from Eric Horng, ABC 7. Should grocery stores and other businesses turn people away if they’re not wearing a face covering? Some employers have safety concerns about such confrontations.
Governor Pritzker: (28:52)
I understand. But we have put in a requirement for people to wear face coverings. And so just like with everything else, you’re not allowed to go into a restaurant without wearing shoes. That’s another requirement that people have and people who run restaurants have been able to tell people who are walking barefoot in their restaurant that they’re not allowed to be there. So it’s perfectly acceptable to tell people that you’re not allowed in if you’re not wearing a face mask.
Governor Pritzker: (29:22)
Remember, a face covering is protecting other people. So this person is being not just disrespectful to everybody in the grocery store, but also potentially infecting other people by not wearing a face covering. So I would suggest that that be the language that’s used when you’re talking to somebody who’s not using a face covering. First to just ask them, “Please would you get a face covering?” And explain to them, “You can even use a tee shirt.” There are plenty of examples of how you can create a face covering for free out of your own clothing or other items you may have in your own home or apartment. And so I would-
Governor Pritzker: (30:03)
… other items you may have in your own home or apartment. I would just suggest people politely ask others to wear a face covering. If they don’t that they shouldn’t be allowed in.
Perfect. A few questions from Mary Ann Ahern with NBC Five.
Governor Pritzker: (30:15)
Reaction to the lawsuit filed by State Representative Bailey claiming a violation of civil rights?
Governor Pritzker: (30:21)
Well, first, as you know, I have relied on science and research and doctors and advice, models from the experts to address this pandemic. It is a pandemic. It is an emergency. It has been named such by the federal government. We are in a state of emergency now, federally. We are in a disaster proclamation for the state of Illinois. For as long as we have the number of 2,700 people getting infected in a day and 100 people that are being, that are fatalities, and that’s happening on a somewhat consistent basis. Thousands of people. We are in an emergency. Frankly, I think that a lawsuit about whether or not this is an emergency is a political maneuver at a time when we probably shouldn’t be dealing with politics, but rather simply addressing the emergency, that no matter what political party you belong to, that you are subject to.
Also from Mary Ann Ahern. Should we assume June 1st the stay-at-home order will end even if it’s gradually?
Governor Pritzker: (31:37)
Yeah, I hope so. You know that I’ve talked a lot about the way we would do that, phasing in, back into the economy. Again, I think that the new normal that occurs here, and I hope that it could occur before the end of May, but again, it will be all based on whether people are getting sicker and where we are in the curve. But the fact is that we’ll be making decisions about how to phase this.
Governor Pritzker: (32:05)
The new normal that’s going to occur at the end of May, or that is occurring even now, but we’re evolving into new normal, is something that we’re going to have to figure out as we go because the researchers, honestly, are still figuring it out too. But believe me, I’m just as committed as everyone else is to getting out of a stay-at-home order and getting things back to normal.
This is from Greg Bishop at TheCenterSquare.com. A sheriff in Douglas County says he doesn’t intend to enforce your modified order. In such cases, how do you intend to enforce your order if it’s crucial to saving lives?
Governor Pritzker: (32:42)
Well, I can say that, then the sheriff is going to let people get sick and they’re going to be people who end up in the hospital and maybe even people in ICUs and on ventilators. I feel badly for the people of that county that they have somebody who doesn’t recognize that this is a worldwide and very virulent virus that is among us. It’s not going away. We’re going to have to follow the rules in order for us to get through this and keep people alive and reopen our economy.
From Sarah Schulte, ABC Seven. Since department stores and chains already do a lot of eCommerce, what kind of companies is the order aimed at?
I think she’s referring to the non-essential retail stores being allowed to open online orders and phone orders on May 1st.
Governor Pritzker: (33:31)
What was the first part of that?
Since the department stores and chains already do eCommerce.
Governor Pritzker: (33:35)
What is this? What stores is this kind of …
Governor Pritzker: (33:39)
I think small businesses certainly can operate. Many of them have their own Facebook pages or eCommerce sites. To the extent that they don’t, they have a phone number and people can take orders over the phone in order to deliver on those orders. They can do pick up delivery, et cetera. I want to just go back to the question you asked about the sheriff who doesn’t intend to enforce. I just want to say one other thing, which is people, whether your sheriff is enforcing it or not, you know what you need to do to keep yourself safe. We’ve laid it all out. You can go to the IDPH website and read all about why you should wear a face covering and why it is important that you stay home and that we’ve only kept essential businesses open, plus the other ones that we’ve added on for May. I think I would just encourage the people of that county to protect themselves.
Also from Sarah Schulte. Following reports that COVID was already in the United States before the first reported case, California Governor Newsom plans to order medical examiners to go back and look at autopsies for December and January. Do we plan on doing that as well?
Governor Pritzker: (34:56)
Yeah, I’d like to call on Dr. Ezike.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (35:01)
No. I know when our first case was identified, it was the second case in the US. Of course, it begs the question. That individual was not on a flight that came in after any travel restrictions and screenings were in place. So, for sure, if we think that this virus originated in Wuhan and people were traveling to the US, it is possible, very likely, that cases, individuals who had this had come before our first diagnosed cases. Potentially there have been other illnesses that were not appreciated. I know that maybe there’ll be requests by families, maybe medical examiners will be reviewing some of their records. We wouldn’t stop any of that. If they identify new cases, we will have to adjust our case counts. We will absolutely do that to update our data.
Okay. Thank you, Doctor.
Speaker 1: (35:58)
Elizabeth, how many more do you have?
I have three.
Speaker 1: (36:00)
From Dana Kozlov, CBS Two. Governor, many garden centers that also sold landscaping needs were already allowed to stay open, what specifically does this modification change?
Governor Pritzker: (36:11)
Actually nothing, it just makes it much more explicit. There were people who didn’t understand the order, that were spreading rumors that you couldn’t keep your garden center open or that we had somehow prohibited people from selling seeds. I don’t know where that is anywhere in this order prior, and so we just put some language in there to make sure that people understood it completely.
Are mayors and towns able to make their own decisions on what should remain closed even if they conflict with your modifications?
Governor Pritzker: (36:40)
Anybody can be more stringent than the modifications that we’ve made. That’s absolutely true that if you have a golf course in your area or you have a business that we’ve said could do curbside pick-up and you’ve decided that’s not safe in your area or that business isn’t safe doing what they’re doing, that is completely up to local officials to enact more stringent regulations than the ones we’ve put forward.
Okay. Last question. I think this is probably for Dr. Ezike. Can you address the discrepancy in the testing numbers today? The website says 12,903 tests for today.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (37:16)
Speaker 1: (37:20)
The website will be updated.
Governor Pritzker: (37:21)
Speaker 1: (37:21)
Yeah, it’s getting updated. Yeah.
Governor Pritzker: (37:23)
Yeah. We were actually having a conversation about this just a little earlier. It was a faulty input today and what we’ll get corrected.
Speaker 2: (37:32)
It is 16-
Governor Pritzker: (37:35)
It is. 16,124, I think is the number today.
John O’Connor at the AP. If 10,000 tests is the goal for a test trace and treat and moving forward to reopening, what measurement … Oh, he has a typo in this. What measurement is adequate for tracing? Number of positives traced? Number of tracings?
Governor Pritzker: (37:52)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Let me just be clear that 10,000 isn’t the gating issue. It is a milestone on the way to having enough testing for us. You have to have many more tests than 10,000. Think about all of the nursing homes and all the people that work in nursing homes, the people that work in sensitive positions where you need to make sure that perhaps every day someone is known to be COVID-negative, so there needs to be more testing.
Governor Pritzker: (38:22)
10,000 was an initial goal. When we set it, I think we were below 5,000. It seemed, frankly, as if it was a real stretch for us to get there. We’ve only had one day above 10,000, so I won’t make any promise other than I think that we have done a pretty good job of getting to the initial goal.
Governor Pritzker: (38:46)
As to the question of tracing, it’s not a matter of how many tracings we do, we need to have a tracking and tracing capability that would cover everybody that has tested positive. You want every person that tests positive not only to self-isolate, or if they need to seek treatment, to seek treatment, but you need also to notify all the people that they’ve been in contact with. That is very difficult to do when you’re talking about thousands of people. As we increase testing, guess what, the number of people you discover who are asymptomatic or maybe had a symptom but didn’t think they had COVID-19, the number of people you’re going to report as positive is just going to go up. That’s a fact.
Governor Pritzker: (39:32)
We know there are many more people that have COVID-19 than the number of people who have been tested already. If you think about the thousands of people that will test positive, you need to think about the number of people that they will have come into contact with and all of those people need to be contacted. It’s a major undertaking and we’re just spinning that up now.
This is from Hannah at The Daily Line. She’s got a two-part question. We’ll start with the first part. You said the state expanded agreements with private commercial labs, do you have assurances that test results will come back faster than the seven to twelve days you’ve complained about before?
Governor Pritzker: (40:06)
Yes, indeed. In fact, that’s one of our biggest concerns. We tried to focus on commercial labs, the ones that we have agreements with. We’ve tried to focus on commercial labs that are in our area. Number one, ones where we could have an agreement where we knew that they would return those test results quickly. What Hannah is referring to, just for everybody else, is that the large commercial laboratory companies, which are not located here, they may have a small location here, but they’re generally not located here, most of their testing capacity, they are returning their tests in seven to twelve days. We just find that too long for most people. Nevertheless, there are doctors here in the state who are sending their tests to those labs and not getting those returned test results in quite that very long time.
The second part of her question, it was said yesterday that there needed to be a push for testing in communities hardest hit. How will that be done? Will medical professionals be deployed to those areas and offer testing? What’s the smart way to do that in order to mitigate potential exposure?
Governor Pritzker: (41:11)
I think I’d like to share the answer with Dr. Ezike, but I’ll just say that that one of the things because we, FQHCs are generally speaking in communities that have vulnerable populations and so the fact that we now have testing sites in so many FQHCs, 75 of them so far and there are 390 of them throughout the state and we hope that more will join this, but it significantly expands our ability to touch the communities where we’ve got vulnerability. I would also add that we are proactively going into the nursing homes in order to get specimens from people who are, by their age and so on, vulnerable. That’s how we’re expanding into those areas.
Governor Pritzker: (42:01)
But Dr. Ezike, do you have anything to add.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (42:07)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). With all the data that we house at IDPH, we can also overlay the social vulnerability index. That’s a CDC construct that uses a lot of different socioeconomic status, minority status, whether people have a vehicle or not. Basically it’s a score from zero to one or a coefficient with if you will, with one being people who are the most vulnerable in this society and zero being less vulnerable. We are trying to use that social vulnerability index and look at the different census tracks and identify high-risk communities that also have a lot of deaths or a lot of morbidity and then try to focus some of our resources towards that area. Also, when we think of where the next drive-through site, that will help us to go to the places that need it most.
Tina, at The Sun Times. It’s been several days since the state began listing nursing home deaths in cases. We’ve been seeing clusters of elderly dying in Cook County every day. Are we seeing an uptick? Are there any other precautions in place to try to limit the number of cases and deaths in the state’s nursing homes?
Governor Pritzker: (43:15)
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (43:16)
I think we’ve both been speaking towards this. We’re trying to identify, of course, we’re aggressively working with places where cases have already been identified and with our strike teams, with our consultants, with our infection control preventionists. But we’re also trying to reach into neighborhoods where we know that there are cases in the community, but yet an establishment in which there isn’t identified cases. That’s when we’re going in and testing all the staff and all the residents so that we can maybe get a jump on identifying a positive case and then do the appropriate isolation and segregation for those who are identified. Our preemptive, proactive approach of mass-testing, we’re hoping, is a way to get ahead of that. But, yes, we’re absolutely trying to fortify our strategies to try to get ahead of the outbreaks.
This is from Shia at Politico. Governor, the new stay-at-home order won’t allow the state legislature to return at all to Springfield to meet its May 31 budget deadline. Can you detail how lawmakers will adjust to the new order?
Governor Pritzker: (44:20)
That’s not accurate, actually. They’re considered essential under the order. They have the ability to return to Springfield. The way in which they will do it is going to be up to them with the advice of the Illinois Department of Public Health so that we can make sure that everybody is safe as they meet again. But that’s something that’s going to be up to the leaders, Republicans and Democrats to work out.
Jim Haggerty, Rock River Times. What do you say to business owners who say that their workers are making more on unemployment and are choosing to remain off work until their benefits run out, even though they could go back to their jobs in many cases?
Governor Pritzker: (45:01)
I don’t know what to say. That was an argu-
Governor Pritzker: (45:03)
I don’t know what to say. That was an argument that Senator Graham made when they were trying to pass the bill. And I just think that’s a ridiculous argument. People want to get back to work. They do have the opportunity to earn more money at work than they do with the extra $600 that’s being provided to them per month. That’s not enough to make a difference for these families.
Bruce Rushton, Illinois Times. What should someone with an underlying condition do if told to either return to work under the relaxed stay at home order or be fired, especially in light of the recent restraining order issued by a Sangamon County judge in the workman’s compensation case?
Governor Pritzker: (45:46)
They should report to the Department of Labor for the state of Illinois. They also have their own union. There are other authorities on a local level, in particular, the Department of Public Health and the local County. But the Department of Labor certainly is an important place for them to go.
Mike at Quincy Media. What are some of the key differences between Illinois and other states in the Midwest Pact when it comes to reopening the economy?
Governor Pritzker: (46:16)
Much of the difference, there are a lot of differences between these states. Look, first I’d tell you we have the best people in the entire country, here in Illinois. And then the next best are those in the Midwest. But, the fact is that we have different infection rates across the different states. We have different characteristics. Some states like Ohio have multiple sort of medium to large size cities. Illinois has Chicago, which is a massive city, and some medium size cities. So you see infection rates are different, and regionally different and so on. So there are a lot of differences. But there are also a lot of things in common. And again, when we’re thinking about reopening the economy, we’re talking about looking at industries. And many of the industries in the Midwest are similar.
Dave McKinney at WBEZ. What are your thoughts about president Trump’s advocacy of disinfectant injections as possible treatment for COVID-19? And what do you make of Trump’s contention today, he was only being sarcastic with those comments?
Governor Pritzker: (47:28)
I don’t know if you’re goading me with that question. I mean, it’s dangerous. What the president suggested yesterday was dangerous. And he clearly was not making any facial expressions or any discussion that would make it sound as if he was joking in any way. And I think all I can say is, I hope to God that nobody listened to him yesterday.
Dave Doll at WTAX. Governor, speculating on life after the pandemic. What elements of the pandemic life will stay with us afterward and what parts of our pre pandemic lives are probably gone?
Governor Pritzker: (48:07)
I don’t think that I can think that far into the future. I have a hard time imagining what the Fall will look like. But I certainly know that one effect of the pandemic is that Illinoisans have really pulled together to support each other. It’s amazing. I don’t know who you know in Cook County, in Chicago, if you are even in your apartment or your house at eight o’clock at night, the entire city, in fact, the entire County are out cheering for our healthcare workers. Cheering for our first responders. Cheering for all the essential workers, because of the risks that they’re taking.
Governor Pritzker: (48:49)
And that’s just one example. People in downstate, there are people delivering meals to seniors at their homes, because seniors are afraid sometimes to go out. And certainly are vulnerable. And people are bringing meals and putting them at the front door, and ringing the bell, and leaving so that they don’t have any contact or any transmission. And I just think it is testament to the greatness of the people of the state of Illinois. To the kindness of the people of the state of Illinois. And so, I don’t know, maybe that was already here, but it’s so much more evident now. And I think maybe one lasting legacy of this is that we will have demonstrated to each other that we are all in this together. And that we will stand up for each other when things get tough.
Ben Cox at WLDS is asking if by moving the general assembly into a special session, if that’s a way for the democratic leadership to strong arm an agenda with the three-fifths majority requirement?
Governor Pritzker: (49:53)
No. Nothing’s been decided about how the legislature would meet. And so, I look forward to having more conversations, as I already have had with the leaders. And certainly their input about whether we would end up in a special session or regular session, is helpful. But, the legislature is going to have to make its own decisions at this point.
Jim Leach, WMAY. Governor, can you debunk some of the persistent rumors about your order. Are any businesses connected to you profiting from the pandemic? Do hospitals get more money based on their number of COVID cases?
Governor Pritzker: (50:40)
I heard the first part of this. Do hospitals make more money based on COVID?
Based on COVID.
Governor Pritzker: (50:44)
No. In fact, hospitals lose money. The hospitals make money on elective surgeries, that’s true. And one of the reasons that we allowed some hospitals in regions that have enough bed availability to have elective surgeries is we wanted to make sure that they could pay their bills. Many of them, particularly downstate, are dependent upon elective surgeries to balance their budget to just keep the lights on. And so we wanted to make it easier. And also there are people who have had to put off surgeries for all of this time, because we wanted to make sure there were enough beds available.
Governor Pritzker: (51:20)
We didn’t know how virulent this virus was going to be. And whether we were going to have every hospital full. And so, after five weeks it’s clear that in some areas of the state there is real danger of that. In other areas of the state there’s not. And so that is allowing elective surgeries now, with some restrictions, I think was the right thing to do. As to whether I own anything that’s making any money during this. First all, everything that I have is in a blind trust. And I’m trying to think of anything that I was involved with before, but no.
Okay. Rich Miller at Capitol Facts. Mayor Lightfoot unveiled her city’s recovery plan yesterday. When do you expect to do the same for the state and what might it look like?
Governor Pritzker: (52:06)
I don’t think a recovery plan was issued yesterday. A committee was put together. And so, the state will do this differently than the city will. And I’ll be doing, as I have been doing, speaking with mayors and leaders from around the state. From Southern Illinois, and Central Illinois and around Chicago. And of course, in the Rockford area too, and Western Illinois. And making sure that we’re taking into account the real diversity of the state, and all the industries and the differences between those industries. Manufacturing will have a very different set of rules for reopening than let’s say restaurants or bars would. It’s a complex endeavor. I don’t see it as one where you can get one committee of people together to make decisions about the entire economy.
Molly Parker at the Southern Illinoian. The Harrisburg City Council has called a special meeting for Tuesday to consider a proposal to open up some retailers to in-house customers on May One, despite your extension. Your thoughts on this, would there be consequences?
Governor Pritzker: (53:12)
I’m not sure what in-house customers mean.
I think that means allowing people to go into stores.
Governor Pritzker: (53:16)
Oh, sorry. You want people to go into stores. That would be a violation of the stay at home rule. And there’s certainly, I have enforcement mechanisms available to me. But I would look forward to not having to do that.
Marnie Pike gets The Daily Herald. How can people get masks if they don’t have credit cards to order online? What masks and vendors do you recommend?
Governor Pritzker: (53:40)
I actually would suggest to people that there are a lot of ways to use a free mask. I certainly am not going to recommend a particular mask maker. I saw a video of how somebody can take a tee shirt and use it to make a mask, with tying it behind their head and, and so on. But, I’m not going to recommend, I think there are lots of ways to do it. I would recommend somebody go online and just type in homemade mask or homemade face covering. And they’re much less expensive than trying to buy one online.
Cheryl Coralee at NPR has a question about PPE. Much of the concern has been around masks, but in some areas now there are a sufficient number of gowns being a problem. Has acquiring and supplying gowns or any other type of PPE become a problem here in Illinois?
Governor Pritzker: (54:30)
I wouldn’t call it a problem in the sense that we’ve run out of them entirely in the state or in any particular place. However, you are correct. Each one of these things, as you can imagine, has been in shortage. In fact, all of them at the beginning were in massive shortage. But we’ve been able to bring, first it was masks. We wanted to make sure that we had N95 masks. Those were very hard to acquire. We’re still acquiring them, but we’ve had a pretty good success at that. We wanted to have other kinds of face coverings, like surgical masks or general medical masks. Gowns are in shorter supply. And indeed, I spoke about this with our team this morning. Because we have actually a number of gowns, lots of gowns that are on order now, and I don’t know what date they will arrive. But we do have them on order. And I know that our expectation is that we will not run out of gowns in the state.
Dan Petrella from the Tribune will be our last question. Now that you’ve met the 10,000 tests goal for a single day. Is this level of testing sustainable for the longterm? Is there a new benchmark to aim for?
Governor Pritzker: (55:40)
The challenges in the supply chain in order to get us to 10,000 were immense. And indeed, this was raised on a call that we had today with the White House task force, that everybody needs to, wants to expand. I heard one of the governors saying they have 4,000 tests a day and they’re having trouble expanding from that to 6,000 a day. So, everybody’s having trouble. Having said that, my expectation is that we will be able to sustain 10,000. Again, it will, like many other things, depend upon how many people go to a testing site on any given day. How many tests we get done is dependent on how many people go and get a test done in part. And then on the supplies. So my expectation is that we’ll be able to maintain this level. My hope and expectation. And then of course, this isn’t enough. And so the idea here is we’ve got to keep going and