Apr 25, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 25
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a coronavirus press briefing on April 25. Read the full transcript here.
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J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
… represented. Please go online now to fill out your census form at 2020census.gov. It will take you no more than 10 minutes and it will make a real difference to our recovery from the damage that’s done to all Illinois residents by the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, that’s 2020census.gov. I’m pleased today to be joined by Dr. Angela Sedenio, a clinical psychologist and executive director of the Kedsey Center to talk about the importance of acknowledging the mental stresses of this pandemic and resources for seeking help. And of course Dr. Ezike will give an update as well. On that note, I want to remind everyone about our call for Calm Emotional Support Program, a free service for Illinoisans experiencing stress and mental health issues related to COVID-19. Anyone who would like to speak with a mental health professional can text TALK, that’s T-A-L-K, to 55-2020. That’s 55-2020 or in Spanish you can text [foreign language 00:01:26], H-A-B-L-A-R to the same number for support in Spanish.
J.B. Pritzker: (01:33)
Once you send a text to the hotline, within 24 hours you’ll receive a call from a counselor from a community mental health center who can help. This program also has accessibility features for people with disabilities. If you are blind, you can use smartphone features to have device-read keystrokes and messages back to you. That is your device will read every keystroke and will read messages back to you. For our deaf community, the texting feature remains the same, but our mental health centers have an American Sign Language interpreter available on a video call for your assistance. The same text line can be used to obtain other services. Residents can text that number, again, 55-2020. Keywords can be texted to that like unemployment or food or shelter, and you’ll receive information on how to navigate and access critical state services.
J.B. Pritzker: (02:49)
Also, if you or a loved one needs services for a substance abuse disorder, please call our Department of Human Services Helpline. That number is 1-833-2-FINDHELP. 1-833-2-FINDHELP or you can visit online helplineIL.dot.org. HelplineIL.org. Today I want to highlight some of the amazing organizations stepping up for Illinois during this pandemic. The people of Illinois have given so many reasons to hope and believe in the goodness of this state. Here are just a few. First, the Gateway Foundation, the only statewide provider of addiction treatment in Illinois, has transformed its 12 outpatient programs to virtual counseling and video-based 12-step meetings. They’ve continued services at their eight residential programs, suspending visits and reopening to new admissions after securing the PPE and tests necessary to do so safely.
J.B. Pritzker: (04:12)
At Encore Developmental Services in Clinton where they provide services for people with developmental or intellectual disabilities, there’s a team that took to the streets last weekend with signs and song to celebrate five birthdays from their day program family. The Crisis Center of South Suburbia moved over a dozen families from their domestic violence protection shelter into apartments and hotels to social distance in safety. The center continues to provide food and counseling services over the phone and over FaceTime. The Decatur Family YMCA saw a need and immediately stepped in to offer emergency childcare services for essential workers in the community.
J.B. Pritzker: (05:05)
One of the first things that the staff did was work with children to display hearts in the window and to write thank you’s in the parking lot, spreading their goodwill, will, sorry, goodwill for all to see. Chicago-land organizers at Off Their Plate have partnered with five area restaurants and 20 healthcare providers to advance their two-part mission, serving free meals to medical professionals while also supporting restaurant workers with donations. To date Off Their Plate has served nearly 2000 meals with thousands more set for distribution in the coming days at Open Door Rehabilitation Center in sandwich Illinois, administrators paraded from group home to group home with a themed playlist blasting from a loudspeaker cheering their residents with I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany, You Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer and Safety Dance by Men Without Hats.
J.B. Pritzker: (06:17)
The Career Development Center For Adults With Developmental Disabilities in Fairfield. Created a schedule of virtual fund for clients from virtual game days and Netflix viewings to Zoom pet parties and superhero days. The East Central Illinois Area Agency On Aging partnered with Danville United Way, Chris Healthy Aging Center of Vermilion County and 50 volunteers to deliver 5,000 emergency food packs throughout the region. In addition, since the early days of this pandemic, we have seen an outpouring of individual Illinoisans reaching out to do what they can for their friends, for their neighbors, and even for strangers. Today marks the last day of National Volunteer Week and I want to honor the thousands of volunteers across the state who’ve been powering our statewide network of nonprofits and community organizations through COVID-19.
J.B. Pritzker: (07:27)
Through our State Commission On Volunteerism and Community Service called Serve Illinois, nearly 11,000 volunteers have come forward during this pandemic to help nearly two million people and thousands of medical professionals have signed up to join the fight through the Illinois Helps Program. Each and every one of our volunteers is making a difference. People have come from all different backgrounds, but what they all have in common is a decency and a kindness and a generosity that should make us all proud to be from Illinois. I just want to tell you about one such person who’s inspiring story was featured in the State Journal Register yesterday.
J.B. Pritzker: (08:19)
Kimmy Armor, who lives in Auburn. Kimmy is a Navy veteran and a retired critical care nurse and Kimmy signed up through Illinois Helps to begin to contract as an emergency response nurse in the fight against COVID-19 starting tomorrow. In Kimmy’s words, “I’m a war veteran and this is war. It’s about helping to save people’s lives. If I can make a difference, I will.” Kimmy, the State of Illinois is so very proud of you and we are so very grateful for your service. And to all of the people of Illinois, if you want to join the growing army of volunteers who are making a difference during this crisis, there are lots of different kinds of opportunities. If you want to learn more, go to our state COVID-19 website, coronavirus.illinois.gov, and click on volunteer opportunities. Thank you and now I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ezike for today’s medical update. Doctor.
Dr. Ezike: (09:33)
Thank you, Governor, and happy Saturday, everyone. During this pandemic we continue to see more and more people stepping up and you heard many examples from the governor. Following the governor’s charge to make sure that we have more and more testing in the state of Illinois, Riverside Healthcare has stepped up and is offering free COVID-19 testing to residents of Pembroke Township and Kankakee County on Tuesday, April 28th and Sun River Terrace on Friday May 1st. Pembroke Township and Sun River Terrace residents can contact Riverside Healthcare to make an appointment and get themselves tested. We want to say thank you to all the healthcare systems, the nonprofits, the community organizations and all others who are helping during this unprecedented time.
Dr. Ezike: (10:24)
I hate to have to do this, but I’d like to address some of the myths, rumors and general misinformation about how to protect yourself from COVID-19. Injecting, ingesting, snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised and can be deadly. In the past two days, there’s been a significant increase in calls to the Illinois Poison Center compared to this same time last year associated with exposures to cleaning agents. Some recent examples include the use of a detergent solution for a sinus rinse and gargling with a bleach and mouthwash mixture in an attempt to kill coronavirus. Illinois Poison Control specialists are available 24 seven to help with any concerns and they can be reached at 1-800-222-1222. Again, that’s 1-800-222-1222. Please listen to scientists and health experts about how to stay healthy and how to protect yourself from being sick with this novel coronavirus.
Dr. Ezike: (11:39)
As you’ve heard the adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the best way to stay healthy is to avoid becoming infected in the first place and to do that, stay home. If you do have to go out, please wear a face covering. Maintain six feet of distance between you and others. Make sure to wash your hands frequently. Please do not try home remedies that involve ingesting cleaners or disinfectants. You could have very dire consequences. Speaking of hospitalizations, let’s recount the numbers of individuals in the hospital associated with COVID-19. As of midnight, 4,699 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, roughly a quarter, or 1,244 patients were in the ICU and of those in the ICU there were 763 who were on ventilators.
Dr. Ezike: (12:42)
For the last 24 hours, we’ve added an additional 2,119 cases, which brings our Illinois total case count to 41,777. Unfortunately, there are 80 Illinoisans that lost their fight with COVID-19 which brings our total fatality number to 1,874. Over the last 24 hours, we ran 11,985 tests. We have been ramping up testing. This will allow us to make more informed decisions moving forward. So for now, let’s continue to join together, not literally of course, and follow the science that shows that social distancing or physical distancing does work. Please stay strong, stay healthy and stay home. And with that, I will translate comments into Spanish. [foreign language 00:13:38].
Dr. Ezike: (17:10)
[ foreign language 00:00:03].
Dr. Ezike: (17:22)
And with that, I’m delighted to turn this over to Dr. Angela Sedeno.
Dr. Sedeno: (17:32)
Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Angela Sedeno, and I am the Director of The Kedzie Center, a community funded mental health center on the Northwest side of Chicago. Our mission is to provide accessible quality mental health care and education regardless of ability to pay.
Dr. Sedeno: (17:50)
Since COVID-19, we have been providing bilingual therapy sessions by phone or video conference, and sharing resources on our website and social media. As we continue to stay at home, there has been an increased need for services which can only be expected to rise. We’re hearing from individuals of all ages with increased anxiety, loneliness, and grief. Families who are stressed about basic needs, couples with relationship strain, and youth who are worried about the safety of their loved ones, and about the future. These are new stressors compounding previous ones. As you can see, it’s impacting the mental health of everyone.
Dr. Sedeno: (18:36)
For some, however, the uncertainty and helplessness may remind them of prior experiences. For many, the pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities. All these feelings are understandable in these traumatic circumstances, but you are not alone. We are experiencing this event together, even as we are impacted in different ways. Be assured, thanks to our community and local leaders, that there are statewide resources available to meet your basic needs and mental health concerns. The stay at home order is temporary, necessary, and filled with challenges. But we are coming together in unprecedented ways and this should give us hope.
Dr. Sedeno: (19:22)
It’s important to actively care for our mental health as we do our physical health. They are related. There are practices that can support our well-being. Maintaining general health practices, such as a healthy diet, regular sleep and exercise is a start. But it’s also important to be aware and honoring of our emotional needs for comfort, connection, and calm.
Dr. Sedeno: (19:50)
There is value in being listened to and feeling understood, and knowing that you’re not alone. This is a time to take extra gentle care of yourself without judgment, to practice deep breathing, relaxation, meditation, and activities that restore your peace of mind. Caring for ourselves is a necessary act of self-preservation in which there is no shame. We can all benefit from talking to someone during difficult times. Please use the talk lines that are available, and if you need more take advantage of the telehealth services that are available to everyone right now, regardless of ability to pay.
Dr. Sedeno: (20:36)
These are challenging times, but together we can emerge from this with greater awareness, empathy, and human connection, and a better understanding of our universal need for mental health care.
Dr. Sedeno: (22:09)
[ foreign language 00:06:51]
Gov. Pritzker: (23:12)
Thank you, doctor. Happy to take any questions.
Dana Rebik: (23:59)
Hi, governor. Dana Rebik, from WGN. I think these first two are probably best for Dr. Ezike. The first one, we received a tip today that a nurse at UIC Hospital has died from COVID-19 complications, and that another nurse is now in the ICU who works there. Also, the tipster said that 35% of hospital staff inside UIC has tested positive. Have you heard anything about the situation?
Dr. Ezike: (24:26)
I don’t know about these recent developments that you’ve shared, but my heart is going out to the family of those who have recently lost their struggle, especially people who have put their lives to try to save others. We know that we’ve had thousands of healthcare workers who are among the positives, and we have had deaths in our healthcare workforce. It’s a sad and sobering truth that the people who are doing the most to protect the society as a whole are also falling victim. So we thank them and we also, we’re praying for the family members who are going to be affected by this loss, as well as the whole medical community.
Dana Rebik: (25:08)
And as a followup, do you know how broadly within hospitals that you’re aware of that employees, nurses have been tested? Are they, I’m assuming temperatures are being checked before their shifts. But where are we at with having nurses tested?
Dr. Ezike: (25:25)
There’s not a policy at the state level. Each hospital has their own staff testing policy that they’re following. Again, I know what’s reported through our system. The data that we have is that we have, I think, about 2,600 people who are designated as health care workers who have tested positive, at least laboratory confirmed. I know from talking to colleagues there are people who have been working since the beginning of this, and maybe they haven’t been tested. So again, I don’t know that we know the full number.
Dana Rebik: (25:53)
Okay. A patient at Alexian Brothers Medical Center, I believe it’s Hoffman Estates, we were told that he was part of a new trial of the convalescent plasma therapy, and that the doctor said that he really had a big turnaround. What are your thoughts at this point on using plasma as a potential treatment? And if that goes well, how would we implement something like that on a broad level?
Dr. Ezike: (26:22)
Me personally, IDPH, I think all of us are just hoping that we can find a cure sooner rather than later. We know that that will help limit the amount of lives lost, the morbidity. So we are supportive of all the trials that are going on, whether it’s IV medicines, oral medicines, or whether it’s going to involve plasma and the antibodies from people. So again, we have recommended, and we still recommend that people go to a blood center if people who feel that they’ve had the disease, or maybe confirmed that they had the disease, if they can go to a blood donation center and are willing to donate their blood, that will help more studies and more research to be done on the plasma to see if these antibodies can be an important part of our treatment arsenal.
Dana Rebik: (27:10)
Okay. Then governor, the Illinois Business Alliance is urging you to pull the graduated income tax off the November ballot saying that businesses being shut down now, that once they’re allowed to reopen, they’ve been hit so hard that implementing that graduated tax would hurt them even more. What are your thoughts on that?
Gov. Pritzker: (27:29)
Well, actually for those who apparently they don’t fully understand how income taxes work. But you only pay income taxes based upon getting net income. So it is certainly true that people have much lower net income this year as a result of the economic challenge that COVID-19 has brought to everybody, companies included. So that’s my response. People who are either going to break even or lose money this year won’t pay any income tax, and …
J.B. Pritzker: (28:03)
Lose money this year, won’t pay any income tax. People who make less than they would normally would pay a lower income tax. Then I finally would say that actually, I think, as I said before, now more than ever, we need to have a fair tax system for the state of Illinois.
Okay. The next few questions are kind of looking ahead into the summer and potential activities. I think you were asked the other day about kids in summer camps. Looking at youth sports… I know, obviously, student athletes lost their spring season in high schools around the state. Later in the summer, the tens of thousands of kids who are involved in things like Little League, baseball, travel sports, lacrosse, swimming, softball… At what point do you think it could be safe for those things to resume? I mean, can kids look forward to potentially being involved in even practices at some point and then later, games, later this summer and fall?
J.B. Pritzker: (28:58)
I’m anxious, too, to find out the answers to those things, but those answers just aren’t clear yet. I know that everybody would like a definitive answer. Believe me, I wish I had one. Even if I brought the two doctors behind me and others here, I don’t think that they could fully answer that question. I’m working very hard to try to move us forward with testing and contact tracing so that we can begin to open things up. Right now, as you heard, we are still climbing this peak. We’re still kind of not only climbing, but as the curve has bent, it is flattening. I don’t know whether there will be any prolonged period of plateau. I hope that we’re able to simply peak and start going down again, but all of that is just something we’re going to have to wait and see.
When you look at the federal guidelines of phase one, two, and three, I believe in phase one, it’s 10 or less. It seems like teams would not be able to meet at that point, but in phase two, groups of 50 or less. Could that be the point where some teams could even begin to meet again and the kids could practice or have small games?
J.B. Pritzker: (30:15)
I suppose so. I mean, I think so, but I also don’t know what the social distancing will do to playing a game. If you think about the six feet required to keep people distanced from one another, it will depend on the sport that you’re playing.
Got it. We had heard some people wanting clarification on the boating that’s going to be allowed starting May 1st, two people per vessel. People were wondering, is that two unrelated people? What if it’s, say, husband, wife, and kids that all live in the same home? Can there be more than two people in the boat if they are direct family members?
J.B. Pritzker: (30:51)
It’s not dictated in our executive order. Thinking about Lake Michigan and what will happen on the lakefront in Chicago, for example, those may be restrictions that are put in by the city or around other areas, Rend Lake or other areas of the state. I think those are determinations that will be made more at a local level.
Okay. Maybe for Dr. Ezike… We had heard there is an outdoor drive-in movie theater in McHenry. I don’t know if you’ve been familiar. It’s kind of been in the news the last few days. The owner had said he had been in touch with some officials from IDPH, and he was trying to work with them on if he could potentially reopen May 1st. He said things were sounding promising and then that he wasn’t going to be included in this group of new things that are allowed to take place. I guess with that type of business there, with people watching a movie in their own car outdoors, what was it about that business that you think it’s still not a good time for them to reopen at this point?
Dr. Ezike: (31:54)
No. We are still looking at that. I actually have been thinking about that. We’re trying to find ways that people can get some level of normalcy back, right? We know the hardship that this necessary measure and the extension of it, what it has done to people. We’re working really hard trying to think through, trying to take creative solutions in terms of how we can make things available to people without putting additional people at risk. We’re not actually done thinking about that because potentially, there is a way to do this, maybe with no concession stands, nobody coming up to the window, so really still trying to think about that and really trying to see how we can make people have a little bit of the comforts that they’re used to while keeping everyone safe.
J.B. Pritzker: (32:44)
Can I just… I want to add something to a answer I gave a moment ago.
J.B. Pritzker: (32:46)
Just to clarify, I was paying attention to one part of your question, which was the question about family members versus non-family members in a boat together. It is restricted to two people per boat. You can’t have 5 people or 10 people in a boat. It is restricted to two but not necessarily restricted as to whether they’re related to one another.
Okay. If it is a family of four or five like husband, wife, and kids, they’re going to have to pick two of them at a time to go on the boat.
J.B. Pritzker: (33:14)
They would, yes.
Okay. This is in regards to unemployment. We’ve heard from some people who have received… They’ve applied. They’ve received their debit card or card in the mail. They’re still waiting on the first payment for those people. How long will it take for that money to arrive? Then with the extra $600 per week that they can qualify for, is that for everyone even if they worked part-time or do they have to work a certain number of hours to receive that extra $600, as far as you know?
J.B. Pritzker: (33:41)
No. As far as I know, the $600 is for full-time workers who get unemployment. As to people who have a card, but it hasn’t been charged yet, so to speak, that is usually because there is still some determination being made on their application. I would say for any of them, that determination should be made within a relatively short period of time.
Two to three weeks or something like that?
J.B. Pritzker: (34:10)
Actually, I think less than that, but I’ll double-check for you.
Okay. Moving on…. This is from Amy Jacobson at WIND radio. She says, “The Illinois State Dental Society has sent you a letter asking to be considered an essential business. Since you need a dental exam before some elective surgeries, are you considering letting them reopen?”
J.B. Pritzker: (34:31)
We actually never closed dentists or doctors’ offices in the EO. They have the ability to operate, but I know that many dentists have chosen not to open because the challenge, as I understand, having talked to a dentist about this, is that the aerosolization of someone’s saliva, when they’re being worked on, makes it very difficult to protect the dentist. Therefore, many dentists have just been open only for emergency dentistry.
Okay. She also asked, “On May 1st, you’ll allow Illinoisans to fish. Plus, you’ll open golf courses. Does that mean parts of the lakefront will reopen? Can boaters use Lake Michigan? Can people golf at Waveland?”
J.B. Pritzker: (35:21)
That entirely will be up to the city of Chicago.
J.B. Pritzker: (35:25)
Then Dr. Ezike, she asks, “Before COVID, how many Illinoisans would die on a given day from other ailments such as flu, cancer, and heart attacks? Do we know how many normal flu deaths we have had in Illinois this year so far?”
Dr. Ezike: (35:39)
That’s great. I don’t have those numbers. I actually just posed a similar question to my team. I don’t know if my phone has been… We will have data on that, just comparison in terms of… We’ve had cases related to COVID deaths, but we’ve had some decrease in, like, motor vehicle accident deaths. I’m just trying to compare that so we’ll get some information.
J.B. Pritzker: (36:01)
I have read that COVID is considered 40 times more deadly than the flu. Certainly, people can go look that up.
Okay. Greg Bishop from thecentersquare.com… He says, “A memo to the appellate prosecutor says their deputy director is less than confident in your order to close businesses, black church services, and other restrictions without legal muster. Are these restrictions and the coming orders things you’ll enforce with criminal penalties or are these guidelines?”
J.B. Pritzker: (36:32)
Well, they’re part of an executive order, they are enforceable. Although, as you have heard me say time and time again, Greg, I have suggested that people should simply self-police and that certainly, law enforcement officers have the ability. I would encourage them to remind people of what their obligations are.
Mike Puccinelli from CBS, too, asks, “Under what circumstances would you consider a county by County or a regional approach to reopening?”
J.B. Pritzker: (37:03)
Well, remember, the coronavirus does not have boundaries that it follows. Therefore, this idea of saying, “County by county… ” It’s sort of a false narrative. Instead, what I would say is that infection rates… How fast is the virus moving? What’s the doubling time? These are all things that need to be looked at because you could have a sparsely populated county where infections are doubling very frequently, and in fact, there are, in Illinois, infection rates in certain counties that are at a higher rate than in urban areas of the state. I just want to keep people safe.
J.B. Pritzker: (37:50)
Obviously, look at what we did with regard to elective surgeries. It’s going to be more available in some areas than others based upon hospital-bed availability because what we don’t want to do is fill hospital beds with elective surgeries and find out that there’s an outbreak that you can’t manage because there are no hospital beds or ICU beds available. We’re trying to manage all those things. I absolutely recognize the difference between rural areas and the number of infections that are happening there versus urban areas. Again, this virus knows no boundaries. It isn’t saying to itself, “I’m going to go after people in the urban area.” It simply can get transmitted anywhere.
Speaker 2: (38:37)
We have a lot of questions online unless we still have to utilize one in the room.
Yes, I’m good.
Speaker 2: (38:40)
That was my last question.
J.B. Pritzker: (38:41)
Thank you very much.
Speaker 2: (38:41)
Jim Haggerty at Rock River Times… Governor, 364 people were tested Friday at Rockford’s first drive-thru site. Can you clarify whether these sites are for people with symptoms of COVID-19 only or are they for those who want to know if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers?
J.B. Pritzker: (38:57)
They are currently for people who have a COVID-19 symptom. That’s a much looser standard, just to be clear, than we had prior to having more tests available when we were requiring a doctor’s order in order to get a test.
Speaker 2: (39:15)
Rich Miller has a question for Dr. Ezike. William Bryan at the Department of Homeland Security pointed to a new study that heat, humidity, and sunlight could considerably shorten the virus’s half-life. Have you given some thought as to how that could help at congregate settings?
Dr. Ezike: (39:30)
Right. We’re following the science as we learn more. We know that the virus can travel whether it’s humid or not. We are trying to find out as much as we can about this novel virus. As we learn more, that will play into some of the rules or restrictions that we promote. I also want to add, just for our testing sites, we are in the attempt to liberalize in appreciating the new information that’s been coming out with COVID-19. We also are trying to identify people who are in that presymptomatic or asymptomatic phase. If someone is especially in a high-risk environment where they’re a healthcare worker or they work in a nursing home and we know that they have been exposed, we are trying to get those people tested, as well. We really want to promote testing. We’re trying to ramp up our capacity as much as possible so that we can offer testing to as many people as possible and see if we can catch people who are in those high-risk settings even before they start manifesting symptoms.
J.B. Pritzker: (40:34)
Thank you for clarifying. That’s right.
Speaker 2: (40:36)
Hannah from the Daily Line has two questions, so we’ll start with the first one. Is the state pursuing more than the 15 initial Abbott rapid testing machines we got several weeks ago or any other quick tests to be deployed for staff at more congregate care facilities? What can the state do to mitigate false negatives from those rapid tests? Would you recommend having staff arrive extra early to a shift at a prison or a DHS facility and have them do multiple tests just to be sure?
J.B. Pritzker: (41:02)
There’s nothing we can do to mitigate the false negatives or false positives, so that’s a challenge. I would also point out that we were given few of the testing supplies that are necessary, which are unique for the Abbott rapid test. It makes it more difficult to use those machines. Even though we got 15 of them, they’re difficult to for us to really operate because we don’t have the supplies, which are unusual as compared to the other less rapid testing. There are other companies, I might add, like Safian, that I understand have rapid testing capability. We were not given those by the federal government. We’re going to look into all of those. What we try to do whenever we get some new fangled test that gets proposed, and in this case, the Abbott test, is we try to verify the test on our own by doing a test through the Abbott machine.
J.B. Pritzker: (42:03)
-the test on our own by doing a test through the Abbott machine and then doing one through our normal methodologies, the swab that’s taken the specimen, running it two different ways so that we can verify the test. That obviously would negate the speed of a rapid test, but we want to make sure that we get the proper number of positive and negative, or the proper results rather, of positives and negatives. And by the way, running it twice through the same machine does not actually help if you have a low positive… Or sorry, a low verification level. So that’s a challenge. But but we certainly want to be able to rapid test people and we certainly want to be able to use those machines to keep people safe. Especially in those healthcare environments that you’re referring to.
Speaker 3: (42:56)
Is the withdrawal of the workers’ compensation emergency rule an acknowledgement that the Workers’ Compensation Commission did overstep its rule making authority?
J.B. Pritzker: (43:06)
No, I think that they’re, what they are now looking to do is to simply revisit it and see what they can do, what they feel like is appropriate and then they intend to reissue an order. But I don’t know the timing of that or what the results of that would be.
Speaker 3: (43:22)
Bruce Rushton at Illinois Times has two questions. Yesterday you announced four test sites in Springfield. Today there remain no Springfield area test sites listed on the IDPH website. Why… That will be updated, so we’re going to move on to the next question. On an unrelated note, your spokesperson earlier this week said “We don’t watch the president’s press conferences because they are not a source of factual information.” Yesterday you said what the president suggested yesterday is dangerous and he clearly wasn’t making any facial expressions and made it appear that he wasn’t joking in any way. How do you reconcile those statements? Are you actually watching Trump’s press briefings or aren’t you?
J.B. Pritzker: (44:01)
I do watch the news however, and so as you know they clip parts of the press conference and play them on the news.
Speaker 3: (44:10)
Kelsey Landis at the Belleville News-Democrat. Governor, we reported yesterday on an outbreak at Madison County longterm care facility that has killed 12 and infected 54 people so far. The public had not been informed before yesterday afternoon and local officials did not make themselves available to answer questions. Should Madison County and others do more to let the public know sooner about outbreaks.
J.B. Pritzker: (44:32)
Well, I do want to turn this over to Dr. Ezike just from a public health perspective. I’ll just say that it is true that the local County department of public health is responsible for gathering information, reporting that information. The local nursing home is the first line of communication, however. They are the ones who are required to let family members know. And so I am surprised to learn if that’s the case, that they did not notify family members that there was coronavirus in the facility. But I’m going to turn over to Dr. Ezike just to talk about the relationship between the county public health departments and the nursing homes and of course our ability to support them.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (45:18)
So first and foremost I think the role of, as the governor mentioned, is that we want the people in the facility to be taking care of the patients. So we’re trying to have them take care of the patients. We know that even in the longterm care facilities, their work force has been decimated, or more in terms of people falling I’ll. And so they’re trying to take care of the residents with fewer people, but they do understand that they have to report to the family members what is going on. That there’s a COVID case in the facility, that their loved one has COVID.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (45:58)
So I know sometimes I’ve run into that where people have had us follow up on certain situations where there might be a next of kin that is identified that might not be every member of the family. And so sometimes you’ll have other members of the family that say they were not notified but maybe they weren’t the one designated.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (46:16)
But in terms of that, the first contact between a nursing home that’s experiencing an outbreak would be with their local health department. And this is not an excuse, but we have to know that public health has not been seen as a priority. And so many of these public health departments at the local level, even at the state level, don’t have the full breadth of resources that they have for a pandemic for sure. And so as the local health departments are assisting and doing what they can to support the nursing homes, their first priority is to try to give the nursing homes the support that they need.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (46:54)
And then finally they do have to report through our electronic reporting system, they need to put information in through the databases so that we at the state have that information. But again, you can imagine, the normal process is that after an outbreak is over, then you’re updating all the information on the website. So given how stretched every one of the local health departments are, even at the state level, we’re completely stretched. We know that if between taking care of an acute outbreak and then putting the information in, there might be a lag. And so I think people have to be patient and understand that people are caring for people.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (47:34)
The reporting will happen but there definitely will be a lag. And in terms of at the state level, our information is only updated once a week. So if we do get it and depending on where in the week that information came in, it might be another few days before it’s updated on our website as we can’t spend all of our time with that part because we have so much that we’re trying to do to actually affect all the different parts of this pandemic.
Speaker 3: (48:02)
Dr Ezike, you can stay there because this next question from Jim Leach is for you. A Springfield area nursing home with an outbreak has gotten enough tests for about half of the residents and staff. Should everyone in a facility with a known outbreak be tested? Do we have that ability?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (48:14)
Yeah, so we were trying this two pronged approach. One way if you had already cases established in the facility and then another if you didn’t have any cases. And so our preemptive approach for facilities that didn’t have a case was to find locales that had widespread community transmission, that had lots of cases, but yet that facility didn’t have a case. And we were trying to go into those facilities and test, do mass testing of everyone, all residents, all staff to try to identify if we can catch some early individuals who are pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic before we had more widespread transmission in the facility. And so we have been doing that.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (49:01)
In the cases where we already know that there’s an outbreak, where we already know that there are cases, probably a lot of that isolation and quarantining has already happened, but we are following up to make sure that we test all staff. The staff that were ill have already been screened and should not even be in the facility, but there are staff who, again, we’re learning more about this virus, that asymptomatic presymptomatic transmission is still possible. So we are screening all staff to make sure that the staff, that we can’t identify any individuals who are already working with the residents who have, who have infection unbeknownst to themselves,
J.B. Pritzker: (49:39)
It is an option. It is an option however for a county public health director to actually go in and test others in a facility. It’s certainly their choice and those tests can exist in their local area for them to access.
Speaker 3: (50:00)
Bobby from Capitol News Illinois. Some hairdressers have been messaging clients offering to do house calls. Does this fit within the spirit of the stay at home order as it stands through the end of may?
J.B. Pritzker: (50:09)
Speaker 3: (50:11)
Ryan Voyles at Health News Illinois. What is the latest on Westlake Hospital, the former Advocate Sherman Hospital and Metro South Medical Center? Has there been any adjustment on how they’ll be used during the current hospital bed ICU capacity?
J.B. Pritzker: (50:24)
So we have with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, and I think I’ve said this many times, just what an amazing job they’ve done. With the help of the Army Corps of Engineers and in some cases our own Illinois National Guard and local tradesmen, we are making or have made all those facilities, put them in a position to become an alternate care facility when we might need them.
J.B. Pritzker: (50:52)
We have made alterations at McCormick Place where there are fewer beds that will be available than the original plan because it appears, at least for the moment that we’re, again, we’re only gradually increasing the number of cases and hospitalizations. More importantly, I should say, not cases, but hospitalizations. And the result of that is we will probably need fewer beds there.
J.B. Pritzker: (51:20)
But those other facilities don’t need to be spun up until there is a projection that we will need that capability. And so we’re making them ready, and so they’re in a kind of a state of readiness but not turned on yet because it does not appear at least at the moment that we need them in the near future.
Speaker 3: (51:45)
Okay. We’ve got two more. One from A.D. Quig at Cranes. Governor Andrew Cuomo is signing an executive order to allow independent pharmacies across New York to become collection points for COVID tests. Any chance that could happen here?
J.B. Pritzker: (51:58)
It’s possible. I think we want to make sure that we’ve got enough testing and swabs and specimen collection for that to be something useful, but absolutely possible for us to make independent pharmacies a place where a vial with a specimen in it has dropped off for sending. I think that’s what’s being suggested. Off to a commercial lab I guess.
Speaker 3: (52:22)
Diana at WBEZ will be our last question. Chicago-based Potbelly just said they are giving back stimulus money through the PPP program. Should other public companies in Illinois and elsewhere do the same? What is the state doing for small businesses that have not seen PPP money yet?
J.B. Pritzker: (52:38)
Yeah. So first of all, I think companies that don’t need the PPP money should not accept it. And so I would encourage companies that don’t need it in order to keep their operations or their employees paid and on payroll or their operations going, that those entities I think should know that they have an obligation here.
J.B. Pritzker: (53:02)
As to what we’re doing, it’s true that the federal PPP program has been very difficult for small businesses to access. And I frankly, I’m very concerned about that. That’s something I’ve spoken with our federal representatives about because it is really the small businesses in our state that create most of the jobs and we want to make sure we support them. And so at the state level we diverted, we took $90 million of the Department of Commerce and made that available for programs to support in grants, not loans, but grants to companies, small companies, small businesses across the state.
J.B. Pritzker: (53:46)
It’s not enough. There is no way that the state can do what the federal government can do. And that’s why those federal programs are so important. It’s why it’s important for the federal government to fund the state because we know better than the federal government, apparently, that small businesses, the ones that are under 200 employees that don’t have an accountant and don’t have a lawyer on staff and so on, to go get that federal PPP money, those are the ones we need to preserve. The ones under 200 are very, very important part of our economy. So I am very focused on trying to keep those small businesses alive and support them and want to do it with state programs. And I’m going to be talking to the legislature, our legislature, about implementing a program that will support them. Small businesses. But I also think the federal government needs to step up to the plate here. Thank you.