Apr 28, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 28
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a coronavirus press briefing on April 28. Pritzker called the state representative’s lawsuit over his stay-at-home order a “cheap political stunt” and has appealed the judge’s ruling.
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J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
The stay at home order designed in close consultation with scientists and public health experts remains in place. As it stands, the judge’s ruling is limited, applying only to one person, the state representative from the 109th district. For those unfamiliar, the 109th district happens to have among the lowest hospital bed availability and ventilators in the state, making it uniquely ill-equipped to respond to a surge in cases. The district is also home to the county experiencing Illinois highest death rate per capita from COVID-19. This ruling only applies to one person, because it was only ever about one person. This was a cheap political stunt, designed so that the representative can see his name in headlines and unfortunately he has briefly been successful in that most callous of feats. As absurd as this charade is, we are taking this matter very seriously. While the court’s order is limited, the risk it poses is significant.
J.B. Pritzker: (01:16)
By agreeing with the plaintiff in this initial ruling, the court set a dangerous precedent. Slowing the spread of this virus is critical to saving lives, by ensuring our healthcare system has the resources to treat patients who get sick. And we will not stop this virus if, because of this ruling, any resident can petition to be exempted from aspects of the orders that rely on collective action to keep us all safe. Because of the threat to public health from this court order, and the fact that the state has acted well within its legal authority to protect the health of the public, the state is appealing immediately.
J.B. Pritzker: (02:01)
I know misinformation tends to spread quickly in situations like this, so I assure you that I will continue to provide you with updates on any new developments. But on this topic, I leave you with this. I know this virus is causing devastating economic consequences, just as it has caused tens of thousands to become ill and thousands to die. For two months, not a second has gone by, where the economic impact on our working families and our small businesses hasn’t been an important and paramount consideration of my decision-making. I have been listening to working people and businesses, to Democrats and Republicans, epidemiologists and expert modelers. Responsible people understand the trade offs and the consequences of reopening too early. So I will continue to listen, and to act in a responsible fashion so we can all get back to work and school and move toward normal in a way that will keep our families healthy and safe.
J.B. Pritzker: (03:12)
Let me remind everyone again. The stay at home order in Illinois is still very much in effect. All of us must maintain social distancing, wear masks in public and keep nonessential businesses closed until we can lower our still increasing hospitalizations and lower our ICU bed use. The danger has not passed yet. No matter whether you live in Little Egypt or in Freeport, or in Quincy, or in Chicago. We are making much of progress and much of the progress that we had hoped to make and we will not let one irresponsible state representative deter us from success.
J.B. Pritzker: (03:58)
Now moving on to the business of actually keeping people safe. I’m here today with IDPH director, Doctor Ngozi Ezike of course, and the Illinois National Guard’s 40th Adjutant General Brigadier General Richard Neely, along with three special guests. It is my great honor to introduce on behalf of the Republic of Poland, Consul General Piotr Janicki, Defense Military Naval and Air Attache, Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Major General Cezary Wisniewski and the medical team leader, Captain [inaudible 00:04:40]. This morning, General Neely and I joined the Polish medical delegation, who arrived here in Illinois to assist, with our COVID-19 response, on Thursday, April 23rd, in visiting our Illinois National Guard operations and our drive- through testing site in Harwood Heights. And I’m very grateful, truly grateful, for their leadership and their ability to join us for today’s update. The Illinois National Guard’s State Partnership Program with the Polish military dates back to 1993, when Poland was still emerging from behind the iron curtain of the cold war.
J.B. Pritzker: (05:25)
And I’m proud to say that that partnership has grown to be the most robust and successful such partnership in the United States. Involving multiple exchanges between Illinois and Poland each year. The Illinois National Guard leadership and service members have forged lasting relationships with Polish military leaders. Brigadier General Neely has made multiple trips to Poland and their leaders have made multiple trips to the United States, as we learn from each other and help each other improve. That spirit of cooperation has also led to a series of boots on the ground partnerships. Since 2003, Illinois National Guard forces and Polish forces have co-deployed, first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. And I’ll add that our Illinois Emergency Management Director, Brigadier General Alicia Tate-Nadeau actually co-deployed with Polish forces in Iraq as a part of one such mission. And just as we fought together in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Illinois National Guard and our longtime partners and friends in the Polish military, have joined together once more in a fight against the global enemy of COVID-19.
J.B. Pritzker: (06:44)
This is an exchange that represents the very best of humanity. Medical experts from different parts of the world coming together to save as many lives as possible, no matter where they call home. The Guard and the entire state of Illinois welcome the assistance of the Polish medical delegation with open arms. These nine members, four doctors, three nurses, one EMT and one logistical coordinator, bring with them their experience fighting COVID-19, on the ground in Italy and Poland, which they now can exchange with the Illinois medical community so that everyone, both here in Illinois and thousands of miles away in Poland is operating with the best practices to save lives.
J.B. Pritzker: (07:35)
Since mid-March, the Illinois National Guard has provided vital capabilities to our state COVID-19 response. Currently there are about 1,120 Illinois National Guard service members deployed throughout the State of Illinois on COVID related missions. So what does this look like on the ground? Well, a prime example. These individuals have set up and continue to operate our five state-run community-based drive through testing sites, in Aurora, in Bloomington, in Harwood Heights, in Chicago, Markham, and Rockford with more sites coming online in the near future.
J.B. Pritzker: (08:16)
In a matter of days, the Guard takes what was just an empty parking lot or an old facility and sets up a testing site capable of serving hundreds of Illinoisans per day, safely and efficiently. And they’ve done it five times now, all while maintaining the continuity of services at the sites they’ve already spun up. It is truly extraordinary work. On top of that, our Illinois National Guard is working with IEMA and IDPH to conduct state warehouse operations in Central Illinois, reviewing any and all incoming shipments of personal protective equipment, PPE, and other necessary materials in our battle with this virus.
J.B. Pritzker: (09:02)
All in all, they have helped to distribute hundreds of thousands of units of PPE and other vital materials to County Health Departments and hospitals throughout the state. The Guard is also supporting onsite medical operations in IDOC correctional centers at Stateville, Sheridan and Galesburg prisons. And have been providing similar assistance to medical staff at our Illinois Department of Human Services Developmental Centers in Park Forest and Kankakee, up until today. That mission was handed off last night as IEMA is deploying teams of certified nursing assistants and other staff to these centers. That might sound like a hefty list of tasks, but this is the Illinois National Guard that we’re talking about.
J.B. Pritzker: (09:52)
So of course, that’s just the beginning of the duties these incredible citizen soldiers have taken on to see Illinois through this crisis. Because they’re also providing logistical support for alternative housing facilities such as the hotels IEMA has rented in Schaumburg, Springfield and Mount Vernon. Building out the alternate care facilities at McCormick Place and in Blue Island and Melrose Park in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers. And that’s after having run the assessment of properties throughout the state, of potential alternate care facility sites. Working with county emergency operation centers and health departments across the state by gathering information and assisting IEMA with inter-department communications. And providing planners, liaison officers and logistics experts to the State Emergency Operation Center, the State Unified Area Command, north, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications and Cook County’s Emergency Operations Center.
J.B. Pritzker: (10:59)
I’m incredibly humbled by the gracious spirit of these citizen soldiers who have left their families and their civilian jobs to assist their fellow Illinoisans. And what’s more, to do so when time with family is one of many people’s most precious every day moments. They are the very best of Illinois. Thank you. And now I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike for today’s medical update. Doctor.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (11:31)
Thank you governor. It’s an honor to be here with our governor of course, and Brigadier General Neely and also our Polish delegation, [foreign language 00:11:40] Unfortunately, I also have to report that today we have surpassed 2000 deaths here in Illinois. And we’ve seen the greatest one day increase in fatalities thus far. Over the last 24 hours, 144 additional individuals with COVID-19, have passed, bringing our total to 2,125 individuals. Of the individuals who have lost their lives in the last 24 hours, 80% of them were from Northern Illinois, 14% from Southern Illinois, and 6% from Central Illinois. 44% were categorized as White, 28% were categorized as Black, 13% categorized as Hispanic and 8% categorized as Asian. We had total of 2,219 new cases for a total of 48,102 for the State of Illinois. Thus far, we have run 242,189 tests, with 14,561 tests being run yesterday.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (12:57)
Regarding hospital data, as of yesterday, 4,738 people in Illinois were reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s up from 4,672 yesterday. Of those, roughly 25% or 1,245 patients were in the ICU and 778 patients were on ventilators. Talking about recovery, I’d like to report that we’ve been continuing with our survey to identify people who report having a resolution of their symptoms after having a positive test. For those less than two weeks from the positive test, 49% report no longer having symptoms and feeling recovered. For people who are between two and four weeks from their positive test, 61% report feeling recovered. And after more than four weeks from the positive test, 74% of the respondents report being recovered. I hope that’s seen as encouraging news-
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (14:03)
… that people do recover. We mourn the loss of all the lives and we’re sorry for all of those who have had to endure a battle in the hospital, but the majority of individuals do recover.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (14:16)
Our response to this coronavirus outbreak is complex and involves working with many traditional partners, but some new partners and new experts. I thank Governor Pritzker for his ongoing efforts and for leading by example as he ensures that Illinois is unified in this battle against COVID-19.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (14:36)
We are working very closely with health and hospital systems, local health departments, longterm care facilities, as well as our sister agencies. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the State Police, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Corrections, the Illinois National Guard, and many more. We have pulled in experts from the health preparedness, medical and public health fields and we have wonderful new partners like our Polish delegation joining us today.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (15:07)
And after my brief remarks in Spanish, I will turn it over to Brigadier General Neeley.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (18:11)
[Spanish 00:01: 15].
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (18:11)
And now, I’ll turn it over to Brigadier General Neeley of the Illinois National Guard.
Brigadier General Neeley: (18:18)
Thank you, doctor. Good afternoon. [Polish 00:18:25] to my Polish delegation and our Polish friends gathering with us online. Thank you governor again for the invitation to join you today. And on behalf of the 13,000 guardsmen and women, thank you for your kind words, your phenomenal leadership and support of the Illinois National Guard, sir.
Brigadier General Neeley: (18:44)
Like you, I am tremendously proud of the men and women of the Illinois National Guard and their response to this pandemic. As you know, they are a capable force soldiers and airmen who are proud to serve but humble in their actions. The Illinois National Guard lived throughout the state and yet deploy all around the world to fight our nation’s wars. Currently, we have over 1,000 members deployed across the globe. We also deploy throughout the state to support the citizens of Illinois when called upon, much like we did this last summer during the historic flooding in both the South and the West part of the state and in this response right now to COVID-19.
Brigadier General Neeley: (19:32)
As the governor stated earlier, currently we have about 1,100, a little more than 1,100 of our guardsman deployed throughout the state, supporting this response to the pandemic. As a part of the response, today, it is a great honor to recognize the generosity of the Republic of Poland and President Duda for sending the medical team to the U.S. and most importantly, sending it here into Chicago and to share their expertise and experience with us.
Brigadier General Neeley: (20:06)
As highlighted by the governor, this team is made up of military and civilians, doctors, nurses, and EMTs. Not only has the team been very involved with the response to the COVID-19 throughout Poland, but also throughout Europe as they deployed to Italy to support that response as well. This type of support is a testament to the 26, almost 27-year relationship between the Illinois National Guard and the Polish military through the State Partnership Program. The Department of Defense in cooperation with the State Department established this relationship between the Illinois National Guard and the Polish military through the State Partnership Program in 1993.
Brigadier General Neeley: (20:54)
Illinois had one of the very first programs in the National Guard. And as I stated, as well as the governor, we believe the best because the incredible partnership built between the Republic of Poland. Over these almost 27 years, the Illinois National Guard has had more than 400 training events with a Polish military including exercises, leadership, exchanges, and engagements and integration of major weapon systems such as the F-16 and C-130 aircraft that the Illinois National Guard has flown. This relationship has grown and become more of a bilateral relationship as Poland has joined with NATO and has grown to be a very powerful country within Europe.
Brigadier General Neeley: (21:44)
As the governor stated, the best example of this relationship is the co-deployments that we’ve had since 2003. The Polish military and the Illinois National Guard Have deployed together into Iraq and later into Afghanistan as a single unit, with the Illinois National Guard embedding personnel within the Polish brigade. These rotations have occurred every six months for the last 17 years and are still ongoing today. We have fought side by side for many years and now we fight the pandemic together.
Brigadier General Neeley: (22:19)
Today, we are deeply moved by the incredible act of kindness and support from our friends from Poland, joining us here in Chicago to share their experiences and expertise in fighting this disease and offering to lend a hand at the local hospitals.
Brigadier General Neeley: (22:37)
Also, a big thank you to the Consulate General for his incredible assistance to help with this event in Chicago and thank you to our Polish Defense Attache, Major General Wiśniewski for his direct engagement with Polish military to coordinate this visit. As the only state to have this type of cooperation, I’m very proud of the Illinois relationship with the country of Poland. Thank you again and I will be followed by the Consulate General.
Consulate General: (23:19)
Thank you very much. Thank you, governor for letting us be here. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your leadership as well, General Neeley. It is my great pleasure to be here and we are feeling that we are very welcomed here. From early on, from 19th century when a group of Polish immigrants came to Chicago, they started building this city, they started building this states and look around, Chicago is great. And now we are facing a great challenge. We have to fight coronavirus and I cannot imagine a better place for military personnel from Poland than Chicago to come and help. We want to be here, we want to share our expertise. We would like to also exchange what we’ve learned somewhere else. A lot of those doctors who came here, they were previously deployed to Northern Italy, where they’re facing a very similar challenges. There’s no surprise that we want to be here because Chicago is the most American of all the American cities, but it also happens to be the most Polish of all the American cities. About 8% of all the Illinoisans are of Polish descent. Among them are people who are suffer because of this disaster. So we are here to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and we are hoping that the efforts of the medical personnel will help with those efforts.
Consulate General: (25:07)
Among those skilled doctors that are visiting from Poland are famous cardiologist, famous anesthesiologist. So we are also helping hands on, not just sharing our expertise. And I know Illinois is under the huge pressure like the rest of the country because now the pandemic is spreading throughout United States. Thank you again for your leadership. Thank you for allowing us to be here. And if there is a chance to help, Polish military is famous to join. And so we are first to fight and we are also first to come and help. Thank you.
Consulate General: (25:59)
And at this point, I would like to give the podium back to Governor Pritzker.
J.B. Pritzker: (26:03)
Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Consulate General and I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Speaker 3: (26:11)
I guess that would be for me, governor. I have a whole ton of them from my colleagues out there. Greg Bishop from The Center Square says, Rep. Darren Bailey says local health departments are the authority to decide quarantine situations so there’s due process with those effected. Why isn’t that the way that this should be handled instead of the statewide approach?
J.B. Pritzker: (26:33)
Local health departments certainly have lots of authority. They can put in more stringent rules than the state does. That’s certainly true, but the State of Illinois has a public health act and has an emergency management act that allows us to protect all of the people of the state. Thinking about every region of the state, which I am, and we are.
Speaker 3: (27:00)
Tahman Bradley WGN asks, if you can explain the Department of Public Health’s quarantined authority and will you now turn to those powers giving the judge’s temporary restraining order if you believe you need to?
J.B. Pritzker: (27:12)
Well, we’re not … There is no quarantine authority that’s being exercised here. There’s a stay-at-home order, there are executive orders. They’re in place to effectuate the protection of all of our citizens. I’m not sure if there was some other point to the question.
Speaker 3: (27:31)
Well, I think what he was speaking of, the judge’s ruling yesterday said in essence, by limiting people to what they can go outside and do, so you can go to the grocery store, but you can’t go fishing. That is in effect a quarantine in the ruling of Representative Darren Bailey. You don’t believe this applies at all in that regard, is what you’re saying?
J.B. Pritzker: (27:52)
Well, what I know is that our … You know, it’s called a stay-at-home order. There is no mandate that people have to stay quarantined in their home. That’s not what the stay-at-home order says. That’s the name-
J.B. Pritzker: (28:03)
… of the order, but the order in fact says that we’re designed to protect families and individuals all across the state following guidelines from our Federal Homeland Security Department. We’ve essentially authorized essential businesses to keep operating, but we’ve asked nonessential businesses to close. We’ve asked people to wear masks and we’ve asked people to make sure and protect each other across the state by keeping social distancing norms. That’s all of what those orders are about. But again, it’s the authority of the Emergency Management Act of the Public Health Act, and it is the history of the state of Illinois that we have sometimes successive declarations of disaster in the state. A good example is floods that have occurred in the past, which remember, emergencies don’t have a time bound to them necessarily.
J.B. Pritzker: (29:05)
Sometimes they do. A tornado can come and go, and the emergency can be declared, and has a time bound to it. Floods tend not to. Pandemics, which we haven’t experienced in Illinois for 100 years. Pandemics don’t live by a 30 day timeframe. So all we’re trying to do is to end our disaster, our executive orders as soon as possible, but with the thought in mind that we need to keep people safe until we’re able to do that.
Speaker 4: (29:41)
To that point, Tom [Devor 00:29:42] who represents [inaudible 00:29:43] told me today that just because there have been continuing proclamations in the past that have ever been challenged in court, doesn’t set precedent for the court to accept that as a legal exercise of authority. Can you respond to that?
J.B. Pritzker: (29:57)
All I would say is he should read the statute. The statute allows the governor to declare an emergency for 30 days at a time. If there is an emergency that occurs, this emergency declaration goes til April 30th. I’m not sure what he’s suggesting, but on May one if there is an emergency on May one, then it is the authority of the governor to declare an emergency, a disaster proclamation on May one for 30 days. But look, let’s not get into the back and forth. Here’s the fact: we are defeating this virus by virtue of having a stay at home order. You can hear from Dr. Ezike and others that there would have been thousands more deaths in the state and there will be thousands of deaths if this executive order is not allowed to proceed on May one through May 30th. All I can say is that it is the height of recklessness that that attorney and his client have gone ahead and challenged the idea that we’re in the middle of an emergency. Remember Donald Trump, the president of the United States has declared a national emergency. We are one of the United States and we too have declared a disaster.
Speaker 4: (31:25)
Just one follow up and then I’ll move on to the other questions because it appears we’re going to have a second lawsuit filed by Republican Representative [Cabello 00:31:33] It’s similar claims. I haven’t seen it yet, but we’re told that’s going to happen today. So now we have a second Republican from upstate challenging this. Do you have a concern that this is going to have a snowball effect and that there’s going to be a lot more lawsuits challenging this? Is this going to go to the Supreme Court eventually?
J.B. Pritzker: (31:48)
Well, it appears to me to be some partisan endeavor at a moment when frankly, political parties shouldn’t matter at all. We should be focused on simply doing what’s best for our people, keeping them safe and healthy. But I don’t know. Certainly people have the ability, anybody has the ability to go to court. But I know that we have appealed this ruling in Clay County, in the local circuit court in Clay County. It’s been appealed and our hope is that … and the Supreme Court has been asked to take up the matter. My hope is that we can move swiftly just to move this out of the way because we have so much to do. We have so much to do to keep people safe, and wasting our time and effort on these ridiculous lawsuits is something that I think is just … it’s something that we shouldn’t have to do and shameful acts on the parts of these partisan actors.
Speaker 4: (32:49)
Moving onto some other things. [Dana Robert 00:00:32:50] from WGN is hoping you could comment on the City View Multi Care Center in Cicero where there are 163 residents and 30 staff who have tested positive, five deaths. According to Cicero officials, City View has racked up 10 citations since the pandemic started. Many involving the improper or inadequate use of PPE by employees. We’re told the state health department has stepped in with mass testings there. Can you comment on the current situation at that facility and what is management and the state doing to protect residents there?
J.B. Pritzker: (33:20)
I’ll have to get back to you. I don’t have the details of that particular facility. As you know, we have nearly 1200 facilities across the states, so it’s hard to keep track of any one facility. I don’t know if Dr. Ezike has anything to add or … no. Okay.
Speaker 4: (33:35)
I did have a question for Dr. Ezike from my colleague [Sarah Schulty 00:00:33:38] If you could give an update on positive cases and deaths at the state run [inaudible 00:33:43] Development Center. Also, is the state providing appropriate PPE for that staff?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (33:49)
Yes. I’m in contact with the secretary of the Department of Human Services. We’re working closely together to make sure that the needs are being met. Of course, it’s really hard to keep track of the numbers for all of the facilities. We have hundreds of outbreaks throughout the state going along with this pandemic. So I think those details can be provided. But yes, we’re working closely. This is one of our sister agency facilities. We’re trying to make sure they have everything they need to make sure that they can get this under control.
Speaker 4: (34:23)
A couple of questions for you, Dr. Ezike, if I can keep you up there. This is for my colleagues over at Univision. There’s talk about quarantine fatigue or caution fatigue with mental health experts saying it could really start to to kick in. Can you comment on that and can these actually hurt people’s efforts to stay safe?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (34:45)
No, of course. We know it’s a big sacrifice that we’re asking people. Of course, we’re trying to do it with their best intentions with the public health in mind. Trust me, no one wants to tell people to stay at home. No one wants people to not be able to enjoy our beautiful state. It is with a lot of reflection and the use of data that we are taking these aggressive actions and they’re actually working. We know that we have flattened the curve. We know we have decreased the rate of rise of the number of people who’ve gotten infected, which means that we’ve decreased the number of people who will be hospitalized and have passed on. I unfortunately cannot prevent every fatality, but we can decrease the numbers as much as we can. So I know that people are getting tired. We all are tired of this pandemic. The common enemy is the virus. It’s not public health that’s trying to keep people safe. It’s not the governor’s working so hard to help us manage these community mitigation strategies. We all need to try to hang in there so that we can prevent the loss of life of our loved ones and ourselves.
Speaker 4: (35:53)
Is there some worry about the toll that this constant state of fear could have on people and the stress that it’s creating [crosstalk 00:36:00]
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (36:00)
Definitely. That’s a very real thing and that’s why we’ve had the call lines to help people with some mental health resources. We hope that others are able to check on friends and others who may be more predisposed to having further mental health exacerbations. It is a trying time. No one is going to deny that being in for this long and not being able to connect with people physically, which is an important and normal human, normal desire. All of that is being interrupted but for the greater good of being able to not lose lives. Hopefully when we can come out of this, we will have to address some of these issues. Hopefully people can reach out and get some tele-health and tele mental health in the meantime. But again, we’re not trying to unduly punish people. We’re actually trying to work on the society’s best interest.
Speaker 4: (36:55)
While I have you up there, a couple of questions came in from Amy Jacobson, from DWIND directed for you. Of the new cases, how many live-in nursing homes or prisons, if you can say that? Isn’t that a good indicator of community spread? There’s a followup question, but I’ll let you address that.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (37:12)
So again, I don’t have all of those numbers immediately on me. Yes, we know that a significant number of fatalities and cases come from nursing homes. As we said at the very beginning of this, that our top concern was going to be congregate facilities just by the nature of how those settings are with people living in the same space, harder to socially distance, harder to have the spacing that we would want in some facilities where you have people who are developmentally challenged. There’s an additional difficulty in trying to get the residents to understand some of the instructions that are being given. So between longterm care facilities, group homes, prisons and jails, that has always been our biggest challenge. We’ve seen the same problem across the entire country. It’s not unique to Illinois. These are things that we know. Whenever there are outbreaks, those are settings that get hit hardest.
Speaker 4: (38:13)
Then the followup to that doctor, if you could one more time. Then I think we’ll get to the governor. The question was-
Speaker 5: (38:18)
How many more do you have Craig?
Speaker 5: (38:19)
I know, but I’ve got a lot online too.
Speaker 4: (38:22)
You got a lot on line. Let me move on. There’s some for the governor that have come in from a couple of other TV reporters. Elizabeth Matthews, governor with-
J.B. Pritzker: (38:30)
I just want to add to that last question that you can find those numbers on the IDPH website. Dr. Ezike may not know them by heart every day.
Speaker 4: (38:38)
So governor, now that testing has ramped up … this is from Elizabeth Matthews of WFLD. When can we see contact tracing start to be part of the solution? Do you have a timeline for that? Then also, the White House is promising to get say 20,000 testing swabs per day in May. Is that going to be enough? Will it happen?
J.B. Pritzker: (38:55)
Listen, I am thrilled that the White House is going to provide 20, 000 swabs a day. I was on the phone this morning with Admiral [inaudible 00:39:04] on that very subject. It will be a great advancement for us to have 20,000 more opportunities to get testing up and going. The first part was just an extension-
Speaker 4: (39:17)
The contact tracing, now testing has wrapped up.
J.B. Pritzker: (39:20)
Also, after that discussion with Admiral [inaudible 00:39:23] I had a meeting with our contact tracing team. That is something that we’re working very hard to spin up, to get going in a large way. As you know, there are a lot of components to that and there’s a technology component. There’s a hiring component. This is a very large endeavor when you have more than 2,000 people that are being identified every day.
J.B. Pritzker: (39:48)
As a result of more testing, we now have more cases that are identified. Each one of those people may for example, have had 10 contacts or more. So you can imagine every single day and then pile on top of that, that you’re monitoring the people who are in quarantine, or in isolation I should say. Once they’ve been contacted and asked to go into isolation or given options about what they’re going to do, so it’s a very large endeavor. We would be the second state to have a very large contact tracing initiative take place. So I’m pushing hard on the team. They know it for us to get that going because that’s the other or another of the major components that allows us to open up the economy even more.
Speaker 4: (40:35)
What about antibody testing? Is that going to be more widely available anytime soon? How confident are you in all of that?
J.B. Pritzker: (40:41)
We would like to do antibody testing but as I said the other day, the tests are still as yet somewhat unproven. The sensitivity is in question still and there are lots of articles about that. We want to make sure that when we start doing antibody testing, that we’re giving people accurate results and that we know what the impact is. One of the things that we still don’t know is if in fact, you are immune after you’ve had COVID-19. So doing antibody testing was intended to give people that information. So we don’t want to start that until we have at least a greater medical basis upon which to give people that information.
Speaker 4: (41:22)
I have two more and then I will pass the microphone over. This is from John O’Connor with the AP. He says, “Regarding your comments yesterday on the Bailey lawsuit, are you really that contemptuous of the judiciary or the right of citizens, or even the legislator to go to court to challenge an executive’s power in this country?” You said that Bailey is grandstanding. Isn’t that what you were doing when you called him reckless and said his actions would make people sick?
J.B. Pritzker: (41:45)
That’s just a ridiculous question. I’m not even sure how to answer it.
J.B. Pritzker: (41:49)
No, I know. I’m responding to Mr. O’Connor. First of all, I have great respect for the judiciary. Second of all, I absolutely think it’s people’s right to go to court. Third of all, what I’m calling reckless is the-
J.B. Pritzker: (42:03)
… idea and the contention that’s been made by the state representative, that somehow we’re intending to limit people’s civil liberties or that we’re intending to take away people’s rights. That’s not the intention here. The intention, in fact, is to save people’s lives. It is reckless in the extreme for a state representative who should know better to, to bring a lawsuit like that, that he knows might have a terrible effect on the health and safety of people all across the state. That’s what’s reckless. He should be more responsible. Anybody can go to court. Absolutely anybody can go to court. But the fact that he took that case to court and that he was the plaintiff in that case, that he’s the one giving interviews about why people’s rights have been taken away and claiming somehow that this is unconstitutional, I mean he should know better. He should read the statutes. That’s what he should do.
Armando Verdicci: (43:07)
Final question. [Armando Verdicci 00:01:10] with TDW. I assume this applies to the lawsuit, what is the Department of Public Health going to do in the event that the state loses in this lawsuit? Do local health departments have the capacity to deal with the situation?
J.B. Pritzker: (43:25)
The Public Health Act actually gives us most of the authority to make sure that those restrictions are in place. Other aspects of the law give us other powers too. I mean it’s hard to speculate exactly whether or not this case would go anywhere else. I do not believe that the courts will allow this ruling to stand. I do believe that the courts will overturn it.
Speaker 6: (43:59)
Kelly at Block Club. It is illegal to sell pre-mixed cocktails to go in Chicago, but bar owners say they need those sales to survive. Lightfoot said it’s a state issue. Are you considering pushing to make it legal?
J.B. Pritzker: (44:14)
I don’t know that it’s a state issue. I haven’t thought about mixed drinks being served at the curb, but I’m happy to look into it.
Speaker 6: (44:22)
Andrew Davis from The Windy City Times. The FDA recently reduced the time for blood donations from gay and bisexual men from a year to three months. Is there a movement from governors to totally eliminate this ban given how badly blood donations are needed?
J.B. Pritzker: (44:36)
Yeah. This is something the federal government has imposed. That’s not something that I would support as a governor, but unfortunately this is a federal law.
Speaker 6: (44:45)
Shia at Politico. Governor, to what extent does COVID-19 dividing the state? Has it increased the partisan divide?
J.B. Pritzker: (44:53)
I think there was a poll yesterday that showed that the vast majority of people in the state support, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, support the stay-at-home order. I don’t think there’s a partisan divide. I do think that there are a few people who are trying to take political advantage at the moment. In the middle of the pandemic that is killing people, they’re politicizing it.
Speaker 6: (45:21)
Jim Leach at WMAY. Governor, you’ve extended sales tax deadlines for bars and restaurants. Are similar accommodations in the works for other businesses? Are other businesses tax-relief options on the table.
J.B. Pritzker: (45:32)
We certainly are talking to the general assembly about that. There are other things that I think we could do, but those are in the works and I don’t have anything to announce today.
Speaker 6: (45:43)
Jim Haggerty has a question for Dr. Ezike. Can you talk briefly about how to safely wear a mask or face covering in public for people who may be worried about cross contamination?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (45:56)
For the face coverings, depending on what it’s made out of, it’s usually recommended that it’d be washed every day. If someone has had the ability to make one, maybe if they could make a couple so that they could be recycled while they’re being washed. You could use the second one or the third one.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (46:14)
Regarding whether it’s the n95 masks, I have seen individuals in public with those. I just want to caution that those are supposed to be accompanied by a medical screening and inappropriate fit test so that you make sure you’re using the right size, to make sure that it doesn’t have leaks and so that it’s actually effective. When those are used without the proper fit testing and medical screening, for instance, it shouldn’t be worn with a beard or excessive facial hair. The wrong size could not give you the protection that’s anticipated. There are specific rules around that.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (46:52)
Regarding maybe the surgical masks, ideally you would make sure that if it’s the straps, you put it around the ears. Obviously, if it’s worn under your chin it’s not helping. If it’s worn over just the mouth and not covering the nose, you’re also missing out on its effectiveness. Ideally, those would be changed frequently. Be sure not to try to touch too many surface surfaces of it without also washing your hands or hand sanitizing.
Speaker 6: (47:20)
Doctor, you can stay up there because there’s another question about clarifying the pools and why those are not open during the pandemic.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (47:29)
Well, I think, again, swimming and pools are a summer pastime that everyone would like to feel that they’re back to normal and being able to enjoy the normal things of the summer. Again, we were still learning a lot about this virus. But in terms of pools in general, we know that the settings of pools, whether it’s public pools or private pools, usually involves mass gatherings almost by definition, lots of people congregating together, whether in the water or poolside. There are for many reasons that we probably need to get to a certain point in our epidemiologic curve before we could probably consider that.
Speaker 6: (48:10)
Ryan from WGLT in Bloomington. Our state-run drive-up testing site is still under utilized in Bloomington, averaging about 100 people per day and capacity is 250. Asymptomatic workers supporting critical infrastructure are still not allowed to be tested there despite state guidance that says they should be. What’s the holdup on loosening those restrictions there?
J.B. Pritzker: (48:34)
Well, we have a limited number of tests and capability across the state and so to the extent that as we’re focused today on people who are symptomatic or are first responders and other essential workers, there, again, is still a limited number of tests available. We would hope that more people would go to that site. But I do want to remind the questioner that actually in Bloomington what we’ve seen is there are a lot of other sites that are available for people and that is one of the reasons why people are not going to that site, is they have the ability to go to other healthcare facilities that have testing available.
Speaker 6: (49:18)
Mark Maxwell wants to know what your backup plan is to continue to fight COVID-19 in the event the courts restrain your executive orders, which you’ve already mentioned, but he also has a second part. If it’s not clear the law gives you the powers you feel you need, why not call an emergency session now?
J.B. Pritzker: (49:34)
Yeah. I am reasonably confident that the responsible members of the judiciary will overrule and overturn, rather, the ruling that came from this one judge.
Speaker 6: (49:47)
Cheryl Corely at NPR asks, Friday, Governor, you mentioned that an order for 30,000 isolation gowns had been made. What’s the status of that order and can Dr. Ezike Talk about how hospitals are handling any shortage of gowns?
J.B. Pritzker: (50:00)
I don’t know the specific status of that order. We have lots of orders for millions of items of PPE, but it is true that the gowns are across the country in shortage. We’ve been very careful about the usage of gowns and monitoring the availability of them in healthcare facilities and elsewhere where they’re needed. But happy to turn the second part of that to …
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (50:28)
We know that with this pandemic we are in a stage where we have implemented crisis-care guidelines and associated with crisis-care guidelines means that you might have to use tactics that you don’t usually use to make sure that you extend the resources, the limited resources that may be available. I guess in pre-COVID times, outside of COVID times we would use an n95 mask one time and you could potentially discard it. There are many different supplies that maybe you would use after a single use and then use multiple per day.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (51:07)
If we had used our supplies at that rate with this pandemic, we would have been completely out of supplies now. Then you’d have frontline workers, healthcare workers with no supplies whatsoever. Because of that, the CDC has also recommended and said that these qualify as times where you would extend the use of your supplies. That could mean decontaminating the n95s. We do have an offsite location where the n95s can be sent to be decontaminated and returned. They can be used maybe longer than a day, several days before they’re changed to a new one, assuming that there’s not obvious soiling or obvious bodily fluids that have contaminated it. Those measures are in place at this time.
Speaker 6: (52:03)
Samantha from Chalkbeat. Chicago released school-level budgets today and they included $125 million increase. With dire forecasts and other studies about school funding are budget increases wise?
J.B. Pritzker: (52:15)
I can’t even answer the question because we don’t yet know, working with the legislature, whether we’ll be able to increase education funding at all. But I hope that we will be.
Speaker 6: (52:27)
Okay. Dan Petrella will be our last question from The Tribune. Are you considering any additional duties for the Guard as part of the COVID response? In Connecticut, for example, Guard members are being deployed to aid with nursing home inspections. Is that something we could see here?
J.B. Pritzker: (52:41)
Well, let me just begin by saying to Dan Petrella that I read the piece that he posted today about his aunt, the loss of his aunt, and I just want to tell you how very sorry I am for your personal loss.
J.B. Pritzker: (52:58)
Absolutely. The National Guard has been tremendous. I mean, everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done with a just, the execution has been amazing. They are excellent at everything that they do. We will be asking The National Guard to do new things. It may be that we’ll ask them to help us with nursing homes more than they already are. As you know, we’ve deployed them to prisons, we’ve deployed them to testing sites. We’ve had them really in virtually everything that we’re doing in fighting this pandemic, they’ve been somehow involved. There’s no doubt that we’ll continue to use The National Guard.
J.B. Pritzker: (53:38)
I’ve said it many times, but I’m just so proud of these young men and women and their relationship with the Polish military, which when I became governor, I learned so much more about, and I must say, it’s a point of real pride for the state of Illinois to have this kind of a relationship with the kind of excellent military operation of Poland. Of course, because we have so many Polish Americans here in the city of Chicago, it’s a great point of pride, especially for them. Thank you very much for everything that you’re doing. Thank you, Council General. And thank you all very much.
J.B. Pritzker: (54:15)
Any other questions?
Speaker 6: (54:16)
J.B. Pritzker: (54:17)
No? Thank you very much.