Apr 29, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript April 29
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a coronavirus press briefing today, April 29. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor J. B. Pritzker: (00:00)
I highly encourage all healthcare entities from hospitals to longterm care facilities to take advantage of this equipment through IEMA. Again, it’s fast, it’s free and it will help us help you. I also want to provide an update on our work at longterm care facilities around the state. Nine days ago I walked you through our efforts to protect our elderly Illinoisans who call these facilities home, starting near the very beginning of this crisis with our March 4th preparation guidelines, our early restrictions around visitors and regular communication with our longterm care facilities, their governing organizations and local public health departments.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (00:45)
Those are some of the first policies that we put in place before we ever had a known nursing home case. And as the virus presence in Illinois has grown, so too has our ability to support longterm care associations and individual facilities in protecting their residents and frontline staff. So I want to highlight some new initiatives over the last week and a half. Let’s start with testing. As I announced previously, we are working to test all residents and all staff for free at facilities without known COVID-19 outbreaks, allowing us to identify early the presence of COVID-19 in a facility and to isolate those cases before widespread transmission.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (01:31)
And at facilities with known cases, we are ensuring that all employees can be tested for free, allowing us to determine who is coming in and out of an infected home possibly asymptomatic and should instead be at home in isolation. Since we started this expanded testing policy on April 19th, we’ve distributed over 18,000 swabs to 68 facilities for testing with more to come. And to expand this effort, IDPH has secured a special contract with Quest Diagnostics to run 3,000 tests per day from Illinois longterm care facilities at no cost to the facilities.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (02:15)
And Quest has promised to provide results in a 48 hour window, ensuring that IDPH local health departments and longterm care facilities have the answers that they need to act quickly and decisively to protect other staff and residents. Let’s also talk about developments in staffing and IDPH’s ability to deploy teams to facilities to assist longterm care staff and local health departments in responding to an outbreak. Local health departments are the first line of communication and support for our more than 1,000 private longterm care facilities in all elements of our COVID-19 response.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (02:58)
That said, the Illinois Department of Public Health has prioritized protecting the health care workers and the residents at these facilities. These are some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans and the state will do everything in its power to protect them. For many weeks now, we’ve deployed infectious disease control experts, advisors and Project Hope volunteers to these facilities and they will continue to operate as a part of our response. But beginning today, we’re adding a new clinical support program to our ongoing protective efforts.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (03:34)
Initially, we’re deploying 10 teams of 50 nurses to homes across the state. Over the coming days, an additional team of 200 IDPH nurses will be joining their ranks to deploy to facilities across the state every day. Though their assistance will be tailored to meet each facility’s needs, they’ll be focused on three tasks, conducting swab testing, training existing staff to take samples themselves and reviewing and improving the facilities’ hygiene practices and PPE use.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (04:10)
With some homes low on staff due to sickness, IDPH and our Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation have simplified the hiring process for longterm care facilities at this time so that they can bring on temporary nursing assistants to ensure that they have the healthy staff they need to care for all of their residents. That includes allowing our longterm care facilities to tap into our Illinois Helps Network where thousands of medical professionals in Illinois have indicated their willingness to volunteer their skills in the fight against COVID-19.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (04:49)
And to support the care of facility residents covering recovering from COVID-19, we have worked with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to open up existing bed capacity at VA hospitals so that our seniors can isolate and receive medical treatment there if needed. As always, I want to offer my gratitude and the thanks of a grateful state to the frontline staff who dedicate their days and their nights to this work and who are stepping up in incredible ways to protect those most vulnerable to this virus. Know that your work makes a world of difference to the people that you care for, to their families and to all of Illinois.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (05:34)
So thank you and now I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike for today’s medical update. Doctor.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (05:45)
Good afternoon. Governor, if I could beg your indulgence, I’d like to start by wishing a happy birthday to my little one at home. Happy birthday, Chica. I don’t even know if she’s watching. But I thank Governor Pritzker for his continued leadership during the statewide COVID-19 response. He’s working hard every day to make sure that every county in Illinois has the resources they need. Everyone is working around the clock for all of Illinois, from the governor and his team, workers in the hospitals, in the local health departments to longterm care facilities and all healthcare providers.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (06:18)
The people of Illinois are being well taken care of. Our longterm care residents are at greater risk of infection because of the inherent nature of living in that congregate setting, not to mention the advanced age and the attended comorbidities. Public health will continue to work closely with the longterm care facilities across the state, calling almost 200 facilities every day to check in on the staff and ask for the assistance that may be required. We’re making sure that they’re employing the most up to date guidance and answering any questions that they may have.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (06:53)
Limiting and preventing spread is how we will end this pandemic. Today, we are reporting that we have reached an unfortunate milestone of over 50,000 cases of COVID-19 here in Illinois. There are a total of 50,355 cases with 2,253 new cases resulted in the last day. Our death toll now stands at 2,215 with 92 additional lives lost reported since yesterday. In total, we have run 256,667 tests with 14,478 being run in the last 24 hours. As far as hospitalizations, as of midnight, 5,036 people were in hospitals in Illinois for COVID-19. Of those 5,036, 1,290 were in the ICU and 777 patients were on ventilators.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (08:05)
As we continue to live in this COVID reality, we need to continue to work together and support each other. While our physical actions such as social distancing, staying home, hand-washin, while all of those are vitally important, we also need to remember to be kind to one another and have patience and understanding and offer support. We are all going through a difficult period in one way or another. More and more of us are being personally affected by this virus. Let’s be all in Illinois and help ourselves through to the other side of this pandemic. And with that, I will translate comments into Spanish.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (08:48)
[inaudible 00:08:48]. And with that, I will turn it back over to Governor Pritzker.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (11:25)
Thank you very much, Dr. Ezike. I’m happy to take any questions. Hi, Elizabeth.
Good afternoon, Governor. Hope you and Dr. Ezike are well. Quick question about the nursing home statistics that you mentioned earlier. So all staff and residents at homes without cases are being tested, correct?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (11:41)
We’re in the process of that. Yeah, we don’t have enough to do it all at once, so we’re getting to all of them. But I think I said 68 and I think that’s the number so far.
And then you mentioned the nursing homes with cases, with positive cases, all staff are being tested or that’s what we’re shooting for. Does that also mean residents there are being tested or just those that are symptomatic?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (12:00)
So the local health departments, what they typically have chosen to do in these circumstances is to test people who’ve been exposed to those, any staff person that may test positive or any other person that may have tested positive and so they’ll test those who’ve been exposed. But they’ll assume that everybody needs to be isolated. And I think I have all the details of that right. I want to make sure I’m looking at the doctor because, as you know, IDPH oversees this. But it is very important that we keep everybody safe in these facilities.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (12:31)
And honestly, if you assume that they have COVID-19, you’re going to give them the same care that you would for somebody who is COVID positive.
Okay. Lots of questions about the second lawsuit that’s been filed, Representative Cabello broader than the first and kind of giving you an opportunity maybe to revise the extended stay at home order before a hearing on Monday. Your thoughts to that? Are you considering it? What do you think?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (13:00)
No, I think it’s a similarly irresponsible lawsuit. We’re in the business here of keeping people safe and healthy. That’s what the stay at home order has been about and I just think that lawsuit is just another attempt at grand standing.
In the same vein, Eric Horng with ABC7 wants to know does the litigation have a point, argues that many mom and pop retailers should be allowed to open a big box stores are operating. Similar shops can observe similar social distancing protocols. Why not allow those small business owners to do more than just drive up and delivery?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (13:34)
Yeah. One of the challenges that’s come up during this crisis has been that again, the list of essential services and businesses that are open focuses in part on grocery stores. But as you know, many big box stores have a grocery store inside them, which allows them under this order to stay open. They also have other aisles and other products that they sell. So that’s one of the unfortunate challenges of this. Small mom and pop, as Eric is calling them, stores, the small business people, what we’ve tried to do for them is pickup and delivery for any kind of retail establishment to give them an opportunity to reopen.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (14:19)
I am most concerned about those small businesses. It’s one of the reasons we created even in addition to the PPP program at the federal level, which I don’t think has been great for those small businesses. We created a grant program at the state level to just provide $25,000 grants to local small businesses. There is no doubt about it that the first thing that I want to be able to do across the state is to open up those smallest of businesses. Those folks have risked their lives, risked their livelihoods rather, all of their savings to open up a business and along comes this terrible pandemic that no one expected and it’s devastating specifically those tiny, those small businesses.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (14:59)
So we’re working hard to figure out how to make that happen. And of course we will give some guidance and guidelines for stores about social distancing, how many people can be in a space, certain number of people per square feet, just like you hear from a fire Marshall for example. But it is a top concern of mine to open small businesses as soon as possible.
We have a very similar question coming in from Greg Bishop at the Center Square, also from Craig Wall, Channel 7, and my colleague Mike Flannery, Fox 32.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (15:29)
All with the same question?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (15:30)
They’re on the same conference call.
I’m trying to tie them up with a bow here today.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (15:34)
So in regards to the second lawsuit, they’re also hoping the legislator can get back. They want to have a conversation about all this. Is that a possibility? Why not work with the entire legislature to pass a law clarifying such powers in order to be able to go back during a situation like a pandemic?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (15:55)
Understand completely, and just please, everybody should understand that under the executive order, the legislature has the ability to meet. There’s nothing barring-
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (16:03)
Order, the legislature has the ability to meet. There’s nothing barring the legislature for meeting. Obviously, they have to follow social distancing guidelines and other things, but they are considered essential as our governments around the state. And so, that’s something that’ll get decided by the leaders and the members themselves about whether and how to meet. I have suggested to the legislature that if they want guidance, and I think they will want guidance about how to do it safely, because that’s the most important thing, we just don’t want anybody getting sick. As to whether they meet today, a week from now, or a month from now, whenever that may be, we need to make sure that all the people who work in the Capitol for those legislators, as well as all the legislators, are safe. And so I have suggested to them they may want to get guidance from our IDPH, or from epidemiologists, well-regarded epidemiologists in the state who would know how to design a plan for them to meet.
Has anyone asked for that guidance?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (17:03)
Yeah, the legislature, several of the leaders, asked to know what would that look like, and so there was an outline provided to them of what it could look like. But not knowing the details of how the legislature wants to do this, it’s hard for guidelines really to be written for what they want to do. For example, are they hoping to have committee meetings? If they are hoping to have committee meetings, how do people participate in that? How is there an audience in a small committee room when we can’t have gatherings of 10 or more in a closed space? So those are complicated and I just don’t know what the legislature will want to do in that regard.
What about a virtual meeting? Is that a possibility?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (17:44)
Yeah. It’s not allowed by law today, but absolutely they could. I know that the City Council in Chicago has met by Zoom. I know that some of the alderman don’t feel like it’s a very effective way to meet, but they are at least meeting, and so, yeah. That is something that the legislature could do, but in order to do that, they would need to meet in person and to pass a law to allow distance meetings.
So how would that happen? How do we get that ball rolling?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (18:12)
Yeah, I would say it’s back to the legislators themselves. I mean, honestly, it’s not for forcing people somehow. I’m not going to go push legislators and they are, as many have pointed out, a coequal branch. They do have the ability to make their own rules and make their own decisions, and that’s something that’s completely on them with any advice we’ll be able to provide to them.
A more specific question from Craig Wall, channel seven, Bill Brady suggesting today maybe wearing masks, putting up plastic shields, or maybe even meeting in a place like the United Center. Why, if the Department of Public Health can set regulations for how grocery stores can safely operate, can’t the Department set guidelines for how the legislature can continue to do its work?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (18:52)
Well, so we will and do, and it’s the same answer, and I don’t know whether they would recommend wearing face shields, or surgical masks, or N-95 masks. Again, I’m not an expert, and honestly, I think that if you think about it, there are 177 members of the General Assembly. And then when you add just even one staff member per legislator, you’re at the 354 net people. And then, of course, there are security people at the Capitol, and others, so when you add all that up, it’s quite a lot of people. Yeah, in theory you could meet anywhere, but of course, that too would be an expense that would have to be borne by the state, but it’s doable.
And finally, in this category, David Greising with the Better Government Association says, “If they can’t meet, what damage is being done due to legislators inability to function during the covid-19 pandemic?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (19:52)
Well, this covid-19 has just been horrible. I mean, it’s been the effect on people’s lives, the effect on the state, the ability of the state to move forward. Think of all the things that we knew that we wanted to accomplish, and I’ve talked about accomplishing this year, that I believe, and not to mention people who may disagree with me and the things they want to accomplish for the year. The idea that the session has been so delayed. Now remember, it is possible to meet at any time. It doesn’t have to be today, or next week, or even next month. It really could be at any time, and again, that’s up to the legislature. If I started dictating a date for them to meet, I’m sure that there would be blowback from legislators, so I have left it to them to make decisions.
Okay. Now we have the miscellaneous categories. So Tony Arnold with WBEZ says, “Is there any legal advantage to bypassing the Fifth State Appellate District and taking your appeal of Representative Bailey’s court case directly to the State Supreme court, considering that appears many more lawsuits are coming?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (20:56)
That has been done, that filing, or at least the filing with the Fifth District. As I understand it, the Attorney General is filing an appeal with the Fifth District, and simultaneously, or moments after, filing for leave to take it to the Supreme Court.
Okay. Here’s a question from downstate. Mark Maxwell at WCIA, he says he’s getting this from several veterans, “It’s a Class 4 felony in Illinois to carry a concealed weapon while wearing a mask. Technically, prosecutors could charge a legal gun owner for obeying your executive order. The order doesn’t take effect until Friday. Why not use your executive order to temporarily suspend that portion of the law?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (21:33)
So actually, we’ve allowed the State Police to set some guidelines here and it doesn’t prohibit people from concealed carry. The rule that we’d put in place would not.
Okay. Sarah Shulte from ABC7, “Some frontline healthcare workers are using shower caps and rain ponchos for PPE. Is that appropriate?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (21:54)
No. They should be provided PPE by their hospital, by their healthcare facility that they work for. We, as I have said, we have provided to every county health department, and to hospitals and others across the state, of the PPE that they’ve asked for. Indeed, we are trying to keep some sense of the inventory that exists and the inventories exist, so if there are healthcare workers that are not being given PPE, first, they should tell their supervisor knowing that there are stores of PPE at the facility. Second, if that is not effective, they should call their county public health department, which has received deliveries from our IEMA of PPE, and we have PPE in this state. We are constantly ordering more. We have as I mentioned, there’s a shortage of gowns, but as to all of the PPE, that should be available to those folks when they go to their healthcare facility.
What about those stories about those healthcare workers? They complain, some of them say they’re losing their jobs if they’re complaining too much.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (23:03)
If they’re complaining too much? Frankly, they should report that to the department of labor. Complaining. I mean, I’m not sure to what extent this is about complaining, or if it’s-
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (23:14)
… Yeah, right. And so, then I would say, that is an inappropriate way to operate. If a facility is firing somebody for asking for PPE, especially given the moment that we’re in, I mean, honestly, our Department of Labor, the Attorney General’s office should hear from those workers, because those facilities are not operating within the parameters that we’ve asked them to.
Ben Bradley with WGN asking a question for Dr. [Zika 00:08:05], “We’re hearing from the families of medically fragile senior citizens who lived in nursing homes, were hospitalized with covid-19, recovered, and are now concerned about returning those seniors to nursing homes where there’s a current outbreak ongoing. What is the recommendation for these folks?”
Dr. Zika: (23:56)
Yeah, so we know there’s a concern for anyone going into any facility, because we know that, essentially, there’s covid-19 virus. The virus is everywhere, but as specifically for people returning from hospitals, I have heard of issues of people not being able to return to their home. The nursing home is in fact their residence and so there should be a process for everyone being able to get back home. For concerns regarding spread of the virus, again, all of the nursing homes, all the longterm care facilities, that’s what we’ve been talking about every day, about how the appropriate infection control standards are supposed to be abided by and followed, so that we can limit transmission of this virus, even in the congregate care setting.
Dr. Zika: (24:38)
So again, working with the staff, the medical team on hand, working with the County, local health departments, working with IDPH, we are trying to make sure that everyone is apprised of all the infection control rules, that they’re following them, that they know how to appropriately put on and take off the PPE. If there are issues in terms of getting the PPE, the Governor has spoken over and over and eloquently about the process to be able to make sure that everyone has what they need, so all of those things being considered, people should be able to return to their place of residence, and they should feel that the staff in place is taking all precautions to prevent and limit spread.
Thank you, Doctor. Steve Bertrand with WGN Radio, possibly another question for Dr Zika, “Do you have data on what populations are making up the newly infected cases? We’ve been staying at home for several weeks. Are the new cases primarily essential workers, or are people who are staying at home still getting sick anyway?”
Dr. Zika: (25:37)
Just to review how this virus is transmitted, if you have been home for, I don’t know how many days now, if you have been home, the virus cannot come up de novo. Of course, we know that there are many people in our state that do have to leave the home, whether they’re essential workers, and there are many, from the healthcare workers, to the first responders, to government officials, to people working in the grocery stores, deliverers, people who are providing food.
Dr. Zika: (26:07)
So there are many, many people that do go out. There are people who are under the stay-at-home, but go venture out, so there are still many opportunities for the virus to be transmitted. The good news is that we know just even from the R-naught value from the doubling time, from the way that the number of cases and the number of fatalities have flattened, that we have curved that number significantly, significantly. So I want to applaud the people of Illinois. They have done the right thing and we have gotten the desired effect. Have we gotten to the point where there’s no transmission of the virus? No, but we have done a fantastic job and that’s why we need to stay the course.
Thank you, Doctor. [Laura Stewart 00:10:53] with WGN asks, “There are handful of counties without a single confirmed case of covid-19. I know my home county of Schuyler County only has one case. Any more thought to lifting or easing restrictions in those specific areas?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (27:05)
Actually, we did in many ways in this new stay-at-home order that begins May 1. That is to say, we identified State Parks, many of them are in those areas of the state, and we’ve opened those. We are opening those State Parks which had been closed, in part, to keep the residents, or other visitors safe, but also to keep the state workers safe who have to congregate in small facilities there. Sometimes several of them in a truck all at once, so we wanted to keep them safe. So that’s one way. There are other ways. For example, when we allowed elective surgeries, we made sure that the areas of the state that have the most availability of hospital beds and ICU beds had the most availability elective surgeries. And so, those are examples of the ways in which we’ve gradually allowed certain areas to do more than other areas.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (28:04)
But I would also point out that, yes, it’s true. There are six counties in the state that don’t have any cases, several counties that have one case, but as you move up that list and there are 102 counties, what you find even in that bottom portion of fewer cases, is that by virtue of the population in the county, that actually their infection rate is higher than in Cook County or than in other areas that seem to have many more cases. But by population, you might have a hotspot in a small, less populated county, so we’re keeping an eye on those areas, but I 100% agree with the idea that where it is safe, and where there’s more distance for people, and where we can open businesses that don’t force people to congregate together in larger groups than 10 at a time, and so on, then we want to do that.
I assume that’s part of the thinking of the phases that you’ve been talking about in the regions that’s still on the table.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (29:01)
That’s correct. The way we think about regions is really in healthcare zones. Where are the hospitals? How many beds are available at the hospitals that would serve a certain area of the state, rather than the way sometimes people talk about regions of the state as, “Well, I live in Southern Illinois,” or, “I live in little Egypt,” or whatever. These are all great ways to identify areas of the state, but the way we look at it is about healthcare and keeping people healthy. And so that’s how, when you talk about regions, that’s how we’re thinking about it.
Couple questions from Mary Ann Ahern, NBC5, update on McCormick Place. What’s the latest on what all the staffers are doing who were hired and now not needed?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (29:45)
Right. So the healthcare workers that are at McCormick Place that may not be needed are actually going to be used in other areas, for example, with nursing homes, other facilities. Remember, staff people everywhere, healthcare workers everywhere, are getting ill. They’re putting themselves out there, risking themselves, and some of them are getting sick and need to be home, isolated, or some of them even have ended up in the hospital, and of course, some have died. And so we have a shortage of healthcare workers across the state. So those that aren’t working at McCormick that we can redeploy, we are redeploying. As to the future of McCormick Place, we’ve talked a lot about standing down many of the beds that, for the time being, the facility is there to be used.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (30:31)
But the idea of staffing, all of the 3000 beds that we were going to staff, because we didn’t know how high the peak was going, frankly, we still don’t really know, but we do see, like I’ve said, flattening. So we’ve stood down a thousand of those beds and it looks like we’re going to have the ability to stand down much more of that facility. So, but again, I don’t want to speak too soon because all of these identified alternate care facilities need to be in a state of some kind of readiness in the event that there’s a surge, either because we reopened, and God forbid we reopened too fast, or because there’s a surge that people expect in the fall.
Because there’s a potential for that surge, do you continue to have McCormack Place up and running as an alternate care facility through the fall?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (31:27)
I can’t project that far in advance, honestly. At the moment, again, everything that we prepared for, what we thought would be a higher peak, and again, the reason we didn’t hit a higher peak is because of all of you at home, who are staying home and following the rules, but we need to be ready. We just don’t know. And so I think we have to watch and see what the infection rates are, what we’ve talked about the R-naught, how many people does a single infected person infect? So if it’s one-to-one, one-to-three and so on, and now we believe that infection rate …
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (32:03)
… one, one to three, and so on. Now we believe that infection rate, or the R0 as they say, the number of people get infected by one infected person is less than two. Indeed, less than one and a half at this point. It had been up at three and a half. So all of those things factor into the way we think, and we try not to project too far in the future, because gosh at this point it would be hard for anybody who’s not an epidemiologist to say, “Well, why would there be a surge in the fall? What has the fall have to do with anything?” And yet the experts say that is precisely the concern that we all ought to be focused on.
Speaker 2: (32:33)
Do you have any idea-
Speaker 3: (32:34)
How many more do you have?
Speaker 2: (32:39)
I have five or six.
Speaker 3: (32:40)
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (32:40)
I’ll try to be-
Speaker 3: (32:41)
Can we combine some of them?
Speaker 2: (32:42)
I’ve tried. This is the miscellaneous category.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (32:48)
That’s okay. I’ll try to answer with shorter answers.
Speaker 2: (32:50)
Let’s see, we’ll move on. This is also from Mary Ann Ahern. “Michigan’s offering a GI bill for pandemic frontline workers, tuition free path for college degree. Thoughts? Something you would consider?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (32:59)
Absolutely. I think that the idea of providing what I’ll describe as combat pay for people around the frontline, that’s something that we ought to be considering. As you know, we don’t have any surpluses laying around in Illinois that would allow us to just pull that out of an old rainy day fund. There just isn’t any in Illinois. There wasn’t anyone I showed up in office. So we are looking to the federal government to help us fund the loss of revenues in the state that’s come from Coronavirus, and I do believe that we should be looking at how to support the people who have been truly amazing. They’re heroes to all of us, and I think they deserve to be recognized as such.
Speaker 2: (33:39)
Greg Bishop from The Center Square, “A standalone firearm range that doesn’t have a retail component says they were told they can’t operate under the order. If they aren’t allowed to operate, they say they’ll look into legal actions against the order. How do you plan to address non retail firearm training at practice ranges?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (33:57)
It’s not something I’ve honestly paid close attention to now. Now that you’ve raised it, I’ll certainly look into it, but at the moment remember, we’re trying to focus on essential businesses and we’ve tried to follow the guidelines of the federal Homeland Security list of essential businesses.
Speaker 2: (34:14)
Okay. Mark Konkol with The Patch says, “Where’s the first lady? Is she accompanied by a state security detail? Has she engaged in non-essential travel? What is your response to people who say the state home order and non essential travel bans aren’t being abided by your family? I believe there’s a report from Illinois Rising Action that says that she recently traveled to Florida.”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (34:33)
Well, first of all, I want to say that in politics it used to be that we kept our families out of it. My official duties have nothing to do with my family, so I’m just not going to answer that question. It’s inappropriate, and I find it reprehensible honestly that that reporter wrote a story about it.
Speaker 2: (34:56)
Okay. [inaudible 00:34:57], my colleague says, “Fox 32 uncovered a nail salon operating on the North side, ignoring your stay at home order. What can the state do to go after non essential businesses? How many complaints has the state received for non essential businesses operating during this temporary closure?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (35:10)
Well, again, we’ve asked people to follow the rules. We also, local law enforcement has the ability to go to engage with those business owners that are opening against the rule. We have enforcement mechanisms. Their permits can be taken away, the state can take action, local governments can take action. So there are lots of ways in which those businesses can suffer some penalty as a result of not obeying these executive orders.
Speaker 2: (35:42)
How does it feel when you see these businesses opened and not abiding and parties and the stuff that we’ve seen?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (35:48)
Yeah. I think I want to talk about the businesses kind of separate from parties because, look, I know that it’s very, very difficult for these small businesses in this time. So I know there is an urge to want to just open the doors because of the devastation that this Coronavirus has caused. But we have to be responsible because it’s not just you, the business owner that you’re keeping safe by staying closed. You’re also keeping the patrons safe by keeping closed. So, we just need a little while longer here while we move past this peak. If we can move … and I’m following … for those who think that the President of the United States is the person that they want to follow on this, all I can say is they put out a federal plan, some of which I think is right.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (36:45)
So past peak, we want to make sure that we’re moving down the other side of that peak and then we can start to open things. As to people who are partying together, and I saw some comments by somebody who was at one of those parties, all I can say is that everybody at that party put themselves and everybody else there at risk and they put their families at risk, their friends at risk, their communities at risk, because when they left there, remember, you can have Covid-19 and be asymptomatic, having no symptoms, right? So this woman who spoke about it said, “Well, I’m not feeling anything. It’s been a day. I’m fine. You know? Well, guess what? You can have it and you may be asymptomatic and you may be giving it to other people.
Speaker 2: (37:28)
Amy Jacobson with WIND Radio has a question for the Governor. “Woodford County has a population of 38,000, 265 have been tested, 12 positive, one has died. Why do you think they should be treated just like Chicago? Density doesn’t matter. Data doesn’t matter. Explain the science behind that position.”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (37:46)
Well, like I said earlier, we in fact aren’t treating every part of the state the same. And more importantly, as we began this, we didn’t really know how this virus was spread. We didn’t really know that there was even asymptomatic situations where someone could have Coronavirus and not know. So certainly we’ve learned a lot, all of us, from … the epidemiologists have learned a lot over the course of this novel Coronavirus, so we are in fact making changes and you’ve seen some of those in the executive order that I put forward, more will come. But again, I would point everybody to the President said, indeed I think Amy Jacobson mentioned the plan that the President put forward and what it takes to get to what he calls phase one is indeed much of what we’re following here.
Speaker 2: (38:41)
Last question from Chris Hacker with Channel 2. “New data from the CDC suggests there were an additional 700 deaths between March 8th and April 11th that were not directly attributed to Covid-19. Are you aware of the spike in deaths above the average for previous years, and if so is it possible these could previously unidentified Covid-19 fatalities?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (39:03)
Yeah, it is. I mean, I think everybody’s realizing … Indeed, there has been a recent report out of California, I think, that shows that people had Covid-19 long before anybody thought here in the United States, so it’s probably true here in Illinois that people had Coronavirus long before, so some of the deaths that nobody was even talking about, they didn’t have a name for this thing. People were dying and they may have been put on their death certificate they died of pneumonia or some other respiratory illness. So there’s no doubt that we’re going to need to go back through the records.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (39:38)
That’s going to probably happen in months hence because we have so much to do now to focus on keeping people safe and alive now. But we’re probably going to have to go back and see how many of these probably, based upon all of the symptoms, were Covid-19.
Speaker 3: (39:55)
John O’Connor at the AP, “One feeling behind this week’s lawsuits is you haven’t listened to the needs of people downstate, could you do better? Some examples of where you’ve done well downstate? Can you envision any scenario where you would negotiate with down Staters on less restrictive stay at home order in May?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (40:12)
Well better than is being suggested by the question is that I’ve had many, many direct conversations with legislators, Democrats and Republicans, downstate and I’ve listened to them. I think some of them would tell you that they were the ones who suggested some of the changes that we put into the May 1st executive order, and certainly the leaders, the Republican leaders of the House and Senate also made suggestions that were incorporated into the stay at home order for May 1st.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (40:45)
So, I mean, is there more to do? Of course. I mean, it’s hard to look back and say that I did everything exactly right. But I will say that I listened, I have listened and I continue to listen to people on both sides of the aisle. I need best ideas. You heard me talk about Representative Mark Batinick at one point who suggested that people in grocery stores and in essential businesses needed to wear face coverings. He himself went out and promoted that in his district and has developed a terrific poster that I think should be more widely used and downloaded from his website about that.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (41:25)
I listened to him, and indeed obviously a portion of what we put in place in order to lower the infection rates across the state was because of the suggestion of people in those essential businesses need to wear face coverings. And I thank the representative for raising that subject.
Speaker 3: (41:44)
Tina, at the sun times. “Are there any plans to defer property taxes for small businesses? Some have reached out to say their bill is due in a few months and they won’t be able to pay it since they have produced no income during the stay at home order.”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (41:55)
Yeah. As you know, property taxes are managed by local governments, County governments, municipal governments, and I certainly encourage folks to think about what they can do to lower or to extend the due dates or to change how it is they’re charging people for their property taxes. But, that is something that’s being decided at the local level and it’s not a state issue.
Speaker 3: (42:25)
Jerry Nowicki at Capitol news, Illinois. “IDPH data appears to show non-Covid patients in ICU beds spiked from 991 on April 23rd to 1265 the next day and 1448 on April 27th. Is there an explanation for a spike in non-Covid ICU patients in such a short amount of time?”
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (42:44)
I can only offer speculations as I don’t have the diagnosis of all the people who are non-Covid. I know as I follow the literature and actually from hearing anecdotal information, we are seeing people with acute heart attacks and strokes, and as I’m going through the literature I’m seeing how this virus actually affects the blood vessels and how it’s promoting clots. So there may be additional heart attacks and strokes and other clotting events that may in fact be related to Covid. So again, without being able to study the medical records of each of those additional cases, we can speculate, but I think maybe the people in the hospitals could maybe round out the information and give us more granular details as we go forward.
Speaker 3: (43:38)
Shia, Politico. “Governor, can you offer an update on the Midwest coalition of States and whether anything has really happened with how you all are dealing with Missouri and Iowa or cross border travel?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (43:49)
We are in consistent communication. I in fact in contact with three other Governors that are part of our coalition just this morning, and in terms of cross border traffic, I mean we’re not stopping people from traveling. So, that’s not something that we’re looking to do. The County health departments across borders do talk to one another about how to make sure that we’re keeping people safe and healthy. So those are obviously, as indicated by the question, peculiar to those areas of the state. We’re very concerned, for example, about areas like East St. Louis and Bellville and all of St. Clair and Madison counties because there has been an outbreak, obviously a hotspot in St. Louis, and that has an effect on people who are just across the river. So we’re keeping a very close eye on it and of course we’re doing a lot of testing in that area and focusing on health and safety and keeping people at home.
Speaker 3: (44:50)
Sean Crawford at NPR. “Governor, when the mask requirement takes effect, would you advise businesses to refuse service to anyone not wearing one?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (44:59)
I would, and in part because that is the intent of the executive order, and in part because I think that people won’t want to go into your establishment if you have people in there who have the potential to infect each other by virtue of not wearing a mask.
Speaker 3: (45:15)
Trudy, at Bloomberg. “Can you provide an update on your tracing efforts? How many workers, what technology, will there be phone banks, how much funding is being allocated?”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (45:23)
Well I think I answered this yesterday, but we absolutely are in process of building this thing. It’s not something that’ll happen overnight, but there’s no doubt that we are hiring a number of people or in process of putting the infrastructure together to hire people, and there are a number of different technologies that are available. As you know, I came out of the technology industry before I became Governor and so I have some opinions about that, but most importantly we just want the technology that will work best and we, there are examples of it working, in Massachusetts in particular, but I’m going to take a look at all of it and we’ll make a decision. I will not be the final arbiter of which technology gets chosen, but I have some opinions to offer and certainly salient questions.
Speaker 3: (46:11)
“Governor, are you considering to any plans to possibly allow hairdressers and barbers to reopen before June 1st? For example, if everyone wears a mask and salons are sanitized regularly?” That’s from Jim Haggerty at Rock River Times.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (46:25)
Look, we’re considering how to open all kinds of different businesses. It is hard. I mean, I’ve listened to epidemiologists about this and Dr. Ezike and others, it is hard to … in businesses where people are going to be face to face or very close to one another in providing a certain service there’s no social distancing that could be done in that circumstance. Having said that, we’re looking at we’ve seen other States thinking about this and where they put it in their phases of reopening. That’s one that we’re certainly considering, haven’t figured out exactly which phase to put that in.
Speaker 3: (47:07)
Molly Parker at the Southern Illinois [crosstalk 00:47:09]-
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (47:08)
By the way, I would like that to happen sooner rather than later.
Speaker 3: (47:12)
Molly Parker at the Southern Illinois. “What guidance is IDPH giving to food manufacturers when they have identified an outbreak among workers? Should they shut down? How should companies and health departments make this call? Companies say there is a lack of clear guidance.”
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (47:24)
Yeah. The federal government, as you know, regulates those facilities, and we were just informed today by the White House that the President has invoked the Defense Production Act to protect those facilities from being closed. But the guidelines for how to keep the workers safe, in my opinion, need work. So we here in Illinois are most concerned about the people who work in those facilities. We want to keep the supply chain going. That’s very important. Meat processing and proteins, very important …
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (48:03)
… and proteins, very important in the supply chain for food. We want to make sure that they’re open, but we also want to make sure that they’re safe. We’re trying to augment the efforts of the federal government and also examine what they put out today, which involves some guidelines from their Department of Agriculture, OSHA, the Department of Labor, these are all US departments, as well as the CDC. But in my opinion, everybody should be wearing a mask in these facilities. Everybody should have PPE available to them. They should be cleaned if there is an outbreak. Of course, the workers there who are either COVID-positive or exposed to COVID-positive workers should be allowed to stay home and recover or isolate until they’re considered free of COVID.
Speaker 4: (48:54)
Jamie Monks. SEIU has said workers of more than 40 nursing homes will strike May 8th. Have you gotten involved in the negotiations or will you get involved to keep workers on the job? Will the state step in if facilities strike?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (49:08)
I have not been involved in that. I am encouraging and would encourage both sides to come to the bargaining table and get this done. Get a deal done. Get a contract done. We cannot let our seniors down. We can’t let people who are in longterm-care facilities down. It’s too important.
Speaker 4: (49:28)
James Stratton and Chris Carter at downstate TV stations have both asked, IDOC released a list of 4,000 inmates released since March 1st, were these released due to COVID? Winnebago County state’s attorney said she cannot notify victims families quick enough. What do you say to those families?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (49:45)
No. I haven’t heard that 4,000 number until I read it recently. In fact, the majority of those releases are people who simply their sentences came to an end and they were released as they normally would be.
Speaker 4: (50:00)
Okay. Mark Maxwell. On March 20th, you said all non-essential businesses must halt operations. What law gives the executive branch power to indefinitely shut our private businesses?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (50:12)
Well, there’s nothing indefinite about it. It’s in response to an emergency. When there’s an emergency, the Emergency Management Act gives authority. Then, of course, there are authorities given to the emergency management director as well as the director of the Department of Public Health under a different law to effectuate these things. But there’s nothing indefinite about it. What it’s intended to do is while an emergency is ongoing, and there clearly as an emergency, folks, I mean let’s pay attention to the fact that people are dying every single day. What was predicted by some a month ago to be, well, we’ll only have 10,000 dead, only 10,000 deaths in the United States. We’ve now I think surpassed 60,000. In Illinois we continue to have people die every day. Look, I know the, the intent of the question is to ask about the indefinite nature, there’s nothing indefinite about this.
Speaker 4: (51:12)
Jake Griffin at The Daily Herald. Since the governor keeps saying the hospitalization number is the most important, can you explain what those numbers need to look like in order for the lay person to know how the state is doing? Is it percentage of all beds, just ICU beds, et cetera?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (51:27)
I think the basis of the question if I understand it is, when are we going to be able to move into the different phases of opening? Is that the intention of the question about hospitalizations?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (51:37)
I mean, we watch hospitalizations but they can’t keep going up. They’re going up. ICU beds are still filling. Again, I would look at the president’s guidelines as one a measure here, which is you have to peak and then move down the other side for 14 consistent days. I think that’s a good way to think about what the timing might be. But, again, hospitalizations are a very important, maybe the most important measure here because you don’t want to have your hospitals overrun with cases.
Speaker 4: (52:13)
All right, Molly from Peoria will be our last question. Has the governor received a letter from central Illinois mayors including those from East Peoria and Pekin proposing reopening their economies in phases? If so, does the governor have a response to their proposal?
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (52:25)
Yes, I very much appreciate different groups of mayors or areas have offered their plans for reopening. Those are extremely instructive and I appreciate that very much. We also got one from Quincy and from mayors around the Chicago area and so on. These are very helpful. As we look at the phasing back of the economy, we’ll be taking all of those letters into consideration. I want to thank the local officials, many of whom I’ve spoken with directly on the phone, including the mayor of East Peoria. I look forward to the reopening and to listening, as I have along the way here, to listening to their ideas and incorporating them in the phased-in plan, so we can get everybody back to work and back to school.
Speaker 4: (53:16)
Alright. Thank you, everyone.
Governor J. B. Pritzker: (53:16)
Speaker 5: (53:44)
[inaudible 00:53:44] I think it’s going to be [inaudible 00:53:49].
Speaker 6: (53:44)
Speaker 5: (53:44)
No, you were good.
Speaker 6: (53:44)
Speaker 6: (53:44)