Aug 9, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Press Conference Transcript August 9
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker held a press conference on COVID-19 on August 9. Pritzker urged the use of masks as he reported 1,382 new cases in the state. Read the full transcript of his briefing speech here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
All right. Good afternoon, everyone. Joining Dr. Ezike and me today are Dr. Emily Landon, the executive medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Chicago Medicine, Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of Northwestern Medicine’s Institute for Global Health, and director of the Center for Global Communicable Diseases at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine; Dr. Gary Noskin, the chief medical officer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital; RaeAnn Van Gundy, executive director of the Kendall County Health Department; Nita Ludwig, public health administrator of the Rock Island County Health Department; Jackie Dever, the public health administrator of the Livingston County Health Department; Dr. Robert Panton, president of the Illinois State Medical Society; Dr. Niva Lubin Johnson, former president of the National Medical Association; Dr. Alejandro Clavier, representing the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Juanita Mora, representing the Illinois Society of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, and Dr. Damon Arnold, medical director of Blue Cross Blue Shield, former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and retired army Colonel, Illinois Army National Guard. Thank you all for joining me today.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (02:08)
These are experts who have spent their careers dedicated to science and public health, and who are among many doctors and public health professionals who are lending their support for the new IDPH public health rule, and who work to keep Illinoisans healthy and safe at this crucial moment in our pandemic response. I truly am grateful for their service, both to the state and this nation.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (02:37)
On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health promulgated a new emergency rule that assists law enforcement, local boards of health, health authorities, and state’s attorneys, in keeping their community safe and healthy during this pandemic. The rule allows a modest level of enforcement similar to that which many other states already have.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (03:02)
This new rule prioritizes education and support for businesses over shame and punishment. It stands in vast contrast with the arcane rules available to us now, written long ago and not with this pandemic in mind, which are hard and fast enforcement rules that can cripple businesses and destroy livelihoods. The old rules leave no room for middle ground. The new IDPH rule gives businesses a warning and the ability to rectify an infraction long before the imposition of a fine. It protects the public and it treats businesses fairly.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (03:41)
Let’s just level set here on where the public stands. 82% of Americans support a mask mandate; 82%. Every health professional I have spoken with, supports enforcement of masking and physical distancing as one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Illinois Public Health Association, representing local health departments and providers all across the state of Illinois, 97 of them, has weighed in, voicing their support for these rules. So have the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois Safety Net Association, the Open Safe Illinois Coalition and the Illinois Medical Society, and so have mayors from all over the state; like East St. Louis mayor, Robert Eastern and Carbondale mayor, Mike Henry, who said that this rule will be critical in helping them keep their communities safe.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (04:41)
But we’re not doing this only because the medical professionals and the experts are telling us it’s necessary, or because it’s what the public is demanding; although those are frankly, two very good reasons. We’re also doing this for the businesses that are following the rules while their competitors [inaudible 00:05:01] them. We’re doing this for the people who have to work in the stores, where their bosses won’t enforce public health rules; thereby putting their lives and health at risk. We’re doing this to reduce or even eliminate community spread, so that if parents want their kids to go back to school, they’ll have the best chance of preserving the option of in-person learning this fall.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (05:29)
Having rules requiring masks and physical distancing in the midst of this pandemic, makes common sense. Let me put it this way: imagine if employees didn’t wash their hands or cooks could stick their bare fingers into your food, and the owner said simply, “Hey, no big deal.” Imagine if someone could walk into a restaurant, light a cigarette, blow smoke in your face, and all the smoker had to say is, “Well, it’s my choice.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (05:59)
Here’s the simple truth. Illinoisans want widespread use of face masks and physical distancing in public, and that’s the core of what this IDPH rule is all about. The people who stand behind me today, aren’t political types. They’ve dedicated their careers to pursuing and disseminating the best health information available, with a profound respect for science. And they know better than almost anyone else, that the worst possible outcome for public health right now, is to turn this into a political football.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (06:33)
Illinois’ May 1st face covering mandate coincided with some of the best trends in our data and lowered rates of community spread. Since then, a flood of states have followed suit; states that are led by governors and legislatures of both parties. In the last few months, research has evolved from the early days of coronavirus, when it was shown that wearing masks protected others you’re with. Now, study after study, after study, has shown us that if you wear a mask, it protects you too.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (07:10)
There’s an unfortunate tendency in our politics these days to dig in your heels in a debate. But our actions in a public health crisis should be inspired not by elected officials, but by the scientists and doctors and researchers, who know this stuff firsthand, and that has informed my decision making throughout this pandemic. Today I’m amplifying and providing enforcement mechanisms for something the experts are saying with near unanimity, mandating masks and capacity limits are two of the most important things that we can do to stay healthy and safe during this pandemic.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (07:52)
Before I hand it over to Dr. Ezike, I want to take another minute to remind people of just how serious our state and our national situation is, regarding COVID-19. In just the last four months, over 160,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. That’s more than the Vietnam War, Afghanistan War and Iraq War combined; it’s staggering. But I fear that those statistics overshadow the even more astounding reality. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who haven’t yet contracted COVID-19, hundreds of millions of people who could get sick or get hospitalized. And statistically, that means hundreds of thousands of people, and potentially more than a million, could die from COVID-19.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (08:50)
Every horrible thing that we’ve seen so far, is nothing compared to what we could see if we throw up our hands in the air right now. This pandemic isn’t over. Our doctors and nurses know it’s not over. Our local health departments know it’s not over. Our workers and our teachers and our first responders know it’s not over. So today I asked the members of the general assembly who serve on JCAR, to give them a fighting chance to reduce the transmission rate of the virus by approving the IDPH rule. These are tools they need to stop the spread.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (09:32)
I don’t pretend that the decision making about coronavirus is easy. All the choices are between bad and worse, but some people have turned it into a political game. There are business lobbyists who oppose any restrictions and they’re calling legislators to pressure them to vote down enforcement rules. Then there are the publicity chasing lawyers who are suing to strike down public health rules, so they can get their names in the paper.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (10:03)
Look, no one pursued elected office expecting to deal with a global pandemic, but we need to make decisions even when it’s hard; especially when it’s hard. One of those decisions, this IDPH rule, will come before the members of JCAR on Tuesday. And for the sake of vulnerable Illinoisans and their families, for the sake of our seniors, and for all of our loved ones, I hope they will support this rule.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (10:34)
Thank you. And now I’d like to turn it over to IDPH director, Ngozi Ezike, for today’s medical update. Doctor.
Ngozi Ezike: (10:52)
First, let me join the entire state of Illinois in saluting you, Governor, for your tireless efforts to protect the people of Illinois. And now it’s time for some real talk. Let’s start with facts that we can all agree on. We’re dealing with a deadly virus. 7,636 individuals have lost their fight with COVID. That’s a cold hard fact. If there’s any debate about that, ask the doctors and the nurses that fought to try to save them. Ask their grieving loved ones. Number two, the numbers are going up in Illinois and we need to control that. And number three, we all have a desire to get back to our lives.
Ngozi Ezike: (11:28)
Public health has always been here to help protect the people and primarily through prevention. We’ve always alerted you to new viruses, West Nile Virus in the summer of 1999, the new strain of H1N1 in 2009, they’re all a little different. We learn all we can. We focus on prevention and that’s just what we’re doing here again. We’ve learned that wearing a face covering will help reduce the spread of the virus. Is it 100% effective at stopping the spread? No, but will it help? It absolutely will. We have measures that can help us reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, and that’s sure better than doing nothing at all.
Ngozi Ezike: (12:07)
We’ve talked for months about masking. Do I wish we knew even earlier? Of course I do, but can we know all the properties of a new virus the first time we see it? Most unfortunately, we cannot. But as the saying goes, “When you know better, you do better,” and that’s what we’re doing. Cases are increasing amongst all ages and in all regions of the state, and we can’t sit idly by and do nothing. So now we need to take another step to promote masking, as many Illinois residents have directly been asking.
Ngozi Ezike: (12:36)
We want to hold businesses accountable to protect their customers, to protect their workers; which of course, will protect our communities. People are going out of their homes regularly; that’s great. We just need to wear a face covering, wash your hands and socially distance. Whether we’re going to work, or to school, or to play or to worship, we can do that more safely with face coverings.
Ngozi Ezike: (12:58)
Today, IDPH reports 1,382 new cases. Unfortunately, there are also eight additional lives that have been lost in the last 24 hours. In the past 24 hours, 41,354 specimens were tested by labs all across the state, where there have been over 3 million total tests. 1,488 individuals are currently in the hospital with COVID. And of those 32, 322 patients are in the ICU and 114 patients on ventilators.
Ngozi Ezike: (13:32)
We are going to get through this pandemic, but it absolutely takes each of us. Please protect yourselves and protect others. Wear your face covering, along with the distancing, along with the hand washing. It’s such a small price to pay to get our big prize. Thank you.
Ngozi Ezike: (14:48)
[ foreign language 00:13: 49].
Ngozi Ezike: (15:02)
And with that, I’ll now turn the podium.
Ngozi Ezike: (15:03)
[Foreign Language 00:00:01]. And with that, I’ll now turn the podium over to Dr. [Emily Landon 00:04:59].
Dr. Emily Landon: (15:18)
Good afternoon. I want to start out by acknowledging that masks are pretty easy. I mean, this pandemic has presented all kinds of difficulties and challenges. Life-altering uncertainty has been introduced into our economy, our health, our daily lives, masks on the other hand are not that complicated. They fit in your pocket. They’re affordable. They’re even free in some places. They’re not that uncomfortable and they work. So I just can’t figure out why they’re so controversial. They both make life safer during a pandemic and they help protect businesses in our economy. If everyone wore masks as required, we could avoid another stay-at-home order. We understand so much more about this virus than we did when I spoke to you all about a stay-at-home order in March. We don’t have to choose between a stay-at-home order or giving into the virus.
Dr. Emily Landon: (16:19)
Masks and distance should be something we can all agree on, but we all need to do them all of the time. Nobody wants to be the mask police, but every business already takes actions to protect its interests in other ways. And personal responsibility doesn’t really work when the consequence of one person’s irresponsibility is another person’s infection. My son was really excited about the ability for his little league team to restart having games last week. It was the first normal thing to happen in this entire year, but the local team where he plays decided not to mandate masks just to strongly encourage them because they thought that would be enough.
Dr. Emily Landon: (17:10)
Shortly after the game started, all the masks started coming off. The kids, the coaches, even the parents stopped wearing the masks, even though they were often much closer together than six feet. My almost 12-year-old son talked to me the next day and said, “I don’t understand why so many people weren’t wearing masks and watching their distance when I know how important this is,” but I get it. We all have COVID fatigue. We’re sick of this pandemic. And we are sick of things being different. Every one of us is looking for any signal, any little green light that we can go back to doing something the normal way.
Dr. Emily Landon: (17:53)
People trust organizations and institutions to protect them. We trust that those little league coaches will make sure every kid wears a batting helmet. We trust that schools will ensure that young kids Can’t run into a busy street during recess. We trust that grocery stores and restaurants will handle our food safely so that we don’t get food poisoning. None of these things happen by accident. And fair or not, people expect these kinds of safety standards to be in place. They understand that personal responsibility only gets you so far when our safety also rests on the shoulders of our friends and neighbors. I’m here today to tell you in no uncertain terms that masks and distance are so important to keeping us out of lockdown, that we have got to enforce them everywhere. Being clear about our expectations and holding people accountable to the rules is fair.
Dr. Emily Landon: (18:48)
And it will protect both businesses and individuals. I’m asking you to set aside your frustration and your COVID fatigue, because masks are something we should all be able to get behind. There are so much easier than another lockdown and giving into the pandemic isn’t any alternative I want to see. COVID isn’t a boogeyman that lives under your bed and goes away when you stop being afraid of him, it’s a real threat. And we can see what happens when we underestimate it. A thousand Americans are dying every day of COVID, a thousand, that is like multiple plane crashes in the United States every day. Would you get on a plane? It’s like having a new 9/11 every three days. Debating about enforcing mask rules isn’t going to save any of those lives. Masks, prevent infection, period. They are both the least we can do and the best that we should do. And I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Murphy.
Dr. Murphy: (19:59)
Well, thank you very much, Governor, colleagues, distinguished colleagues. Ladies and gentlemen, also welcome to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Feinberg School of Medicine where you’re standing here today. I think what I would just like to remind everybody in the state is to remember, this is a pandemic. This is not a usual thing that occurs. Last big pandemic was 1918. We don’t have a lot of experience with pandemics and we better learn and we have distinguished people here in this room that are our expert at at least modeling what’s happening and figuring out the best way to stop it and you’ve heard many of those things already.
Dr. Murphy: (20:46)
The United States already has 5 million cases with 161,000 deaths. The world has almost 20 million cases right now with 727,000 deaths with an overall mortality rate of 3.6%. So what does this mean? Let’s put it into perspective that people can relate to. The 10 causes of death in the United States are well known, documented. COVID is expected to kill 300,000 people in the United States this year.
Dr. Murphy: (21:20)
Where does it put it on the list of what people die from? You know what it is? It’s third, there’s heart disease, there’s cancer and there’s COVID. The third leading cause of death in this country. This is followed by chronic lung disease and a stroke. Even if there was not a single other COVID death, COVID would still be the third leading cause of death. People have to keep it in mind. This is not a minor thing that’s happening. And it is overwhelming the hospitals, not only in the city, which is actually better geared up for it, but in the rural counties. The rural counties cannot handle this kind of disease, the intensity of the disease for those that get sick. It’s incredibly serious. And where are we going with this thing? In the United States, it took 90 days to infect a million people and it took 43 million to infect the next million.
Dr. Murphy: (22:19)
Then it took 27 days to get the next million and 16 days to get the next. All you have to do is have basic math to figure out that’s not good. We’re getting millions of cases every two weeks. This is not a sustainable problem. Illinois had done pretty well. And now we are creeping up and we are not doing as well as we used to do, something has to change. That’s actually why we’re here. What we have the other day? 2,050 new cases, 13 deaths. How long does this going to go on in the direction we’re going. The United States is an outlier in this whole process. If you look at new cases per a hundred thousand, so that takes into account the population of the country, the worst of the major countries, the G20 countries, is Brazil with 145 cases per a hundred thousand.
Dr. Murphy: (23:14)
The United States is second with 115. You look in Western Europe, the worst is Spain. It’s 55, that drops down quite a bit. They’re having a little problem there right now, but then you get to a country like France that’s 15 Germany, seven compared to us, 115. What are the Western Europeans doing and the Canadians will only have nine? What are they doing that we’re not doing? We know what they’re doing and we’re actually trying to do what they’re doing because they’re doing it better than we are doing. The Germans have been able to control their epidemic with the different regions and states in Germany. They have one of the lowest rates now in the world in the Western countries anyway. If a state or region gets up to 50 new cases, per hundred thousand, they are shut down. We’re way above that.
Dr. Murphy: (24:09)
If the Germans were in charge here, we’d be at home right now. We wouldn’t be even standing here. So I just want to point out the seriousness. Let’s look at the states, the Midwest we’re in the middle of the whole pack. So we have 97 of these cases per a hundred thousand. Wisconsin has 106, Indiana 96, Kentucky 98, excuse me, Indiana 93. It’s not good, but it’s certainly not Florida, which has 217, Texas 187, in California 118. These guys are doing much worse then we’re doing, so we’re doing something good. And we want to get down to the places like New York, which has 24, Massachusetts, which has 39 and the state of Maine has seven, actually doing the best in the United States right now. Where do we want to be in this whole thing? How many people do we want to die?
Dr. Murphy: (25:01)
How many hospitals do we want to fill up? How many ICU beds, how many ventilators do we have to use to get down to something that’s reasonable that at least is compatible with other countries in our wealth category? Let’s look at the counties. Everybody tends from the state… Chicago doesn’t count. Whatever happens in Chicago or Cook County, that doesn’t matter in the rest of this state. If you take a look at the numbers, you’re going to find some very surprising facts. The city of Chicago is actually not doing so bad in Cook County. Of all the hundred or so counties we have, they actually ranked from the worst to down, they’re 41. So there’s 40 other counties that have a worst case rate than Cook County at 92. Lake County’s even worse, 95. Will County 94, McHenry County 83, Kendall County doing a little better, 67.
Dr. Murphy: (25:52)
My next speaker is from Kendall County. So what works? Well, we know what works. The time and the duration of the original stay-at-home order that has directly had impact on many countries. Number two is the reopening timing of the different venues, restaurants, bars, and so forth. And three and most importantly, and why we’re here today is the individual behavior I’ll call it. That’s wearing the mask, practicing social distancing, don’t have gatherings greater than what is recommended based on the case rate in your particular area. We know that these things work. So what can we do? We can do nothing or we continue what’s not working. And I’m telling everyone today that’s listening, it’s not working. What we are doing now is not working. We are on a path to more problems. We have to do something and all we really have to do is enforce the mask.
Dr. Murphy: (26:58)
It’s been proven time and time again that the mask protect giving it, now even getting it. You have to wear it out in public and you have to wear it indoor in public. In your home, you do what you want. But when you are in the public, you can’t be walking down the sidewalk, not wearing it. Well, I’m going to stay six feet away. And somebody walks by you. This doesn’t work. Everybody has to be wearing a mask all the time. Is it so hard? It’s not so hard. And what about social distancing? I had never heard of the term until this pandemic. I thought it was kind of a funny term. Six feet is well known to decrease the infectiousness of that person. But you know, you look at the studies, it’s actually three feet. You get 50% more credit if you go six feet versus three feet, but even three feet is beneficial.
Dr. Murphy: (27:44)
Less than three feet is not benefit, so that we know. So we have to do that. We also have to wash our hands. Now they’re going to have to wash the thing here because I just touched it, but you’re going to have to do that. And what are we going to do? Where does this congregation, where is all this congregation happening? We know what spreads it, even in South Korea. I hate to say it, it’s the bars. It’s the social congregation at the bars. People are not wearing masks, they’re drinking and they’re too close to each other, that’s one thing.
Dr. Murphy: (28:15)
And bars are still closed in Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut, which have some of the three lowest rates in the United States. They just opened up in New York because New York felt like they’ve controlled the thing pretty well. Also indoor dining. I hate to say it, at least it’s hot out. You can go outside and dine, but indoor dining is also associated with an increased risk. You can social distance all you want and that of course is going to help, there’s no, yes, no, it’s a gradation.
Dr. Murphy: (28:45)
And finally it’s the venues that are ongoing now that those numbers have to be limited at this particular time. I hope I didn’t paint too bleak of a future because I’m actually quite an optimist. First of all, I think it’s easy to wear a mask and stay at least three feet away from somebody. If we did that, everyone in this state did it, in 12 weeks, we would have no problem. You’d have everything open up again because so few people would be getting infected that the tracers could actually trace the people.
Dr. Murphy: (29:13)
Right now there’s so many infected people that can… It doesn’t work. It’s basically useless. Vaccines are coming. There’s a hundred in development and there’s going to be a half a dozen ready by December or January. Hopefully, some of them are going to work. That’s going to change things and also some new treatments. So with that, I hope to leave you on an upbeat note. And I’ve got to introduce the next speaker from Kendall County, Dr. RaeAnn VanGundy.
Dr. RaeAnn VanGundy: (29:46)
Thank you, Dr. Murphy. Thank you Governor for the offer today. As stewards of local public health, the Kendall County Health Department aims to continue our educational outreach efforts to local businesses, facilities and all schools to ensure full compliance with the masking mandate.
Dr. RaeAnn VanGundy: (30:02)
… To ensure full compliance with the masking mandate. The new emergency rule will further assist our Health Department in protecting the health and wellbeing of our residents by slowing the spread of the disease. The new emergency rule will also aid in our continuing strong efforts to empower and equip our businesses with the ability to promote and uphold the guidelines among their employees, patrons and other individuals on their premises.
Dr. RaeAnn VanGundy: (30:28)
The multiple opportunities this new emergency rule provides allows for the Health Department to really engage these businesses prior to penalty. As in all things public health, education will precede enforcement. In the past few weeks, much like the state of Illinois, we too have seen our numbers starting to increase. Our numbers are beginning to resemble those we saw in the middle of May. These increases are not due to outbreaks, they are due to the complacency. They are due to risky behaviors. Poor choices further substantiate the need for the new emergency rule, and will help to ensure all residents comply with the masking mandate. The Health Department, alongside our County Board, will continue to work together to disseminate strong recommendations and model the importance of mask wearing in our buildings, in our businesses and schools, and throughout our communities.
Dr. RaeAnn VanGundy: (31:23)
We know we have a lot of work to do. Together, we can slow the spread. Thank you, Dr. Ezike, for your leadership in IDPH, and to the Governor, for all your long hours and continued dedication during this pandemic. Just know that in Kendall County, we are all in. Thank you. And now, my good friend and colleague here, Nita Ludwig.
Dr. Emily Landon: (31:50)
Thank you, and thank you, Dr. Ezike and Governor for having me here today. Last week was not a good one in Rock Island County. COVID-19 numbers have been climbing since early July. Last week, we reported six deaths in our county, and more than 150 new cases of COVID-19. Many of these cases are occurring in nursing homes, group homes and prisons in our county. This virus can have very serious outcomes for these vulnerable populations. Now more than ever, we need to make sure we are following all the public health precautions of wearing a face covering when you go out, keeping a six foot distance between yourself and others, and washing your hands frequently, and please don’t go out if you’re feeling sick.
Dr. Emily Landon: (32:37)
Most of the deaths this week have been older, more vulnerable people. We all need to do our part so that we are not spreading this virus to others. We must have everyone following the face covering guidance put forward by the Governor to stop the spread of this virus. This new guidance will help the Health Department assist our businesses to ensure mass are worn throughout our county. Our staff will be educating businesses to the new guidelines, and we’ll also follow up if issues continue. Wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing remain our best defense to slow the spread of COVID-19. And now I’d like to introduce Dr. Juanita Mora, an allergist here in Chicago, and a volunteering National Spokesperson for the American Lung Association.
Dr. Juanita Mora: (33:31)
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Governor and Dr. Ezike and my colleagues for having me here today. As volunteer National Spokesperson for the American Lung Association, and as a local allergist who treats kids and adults with asthma, I encourage that everyone wear a mask. The CDC recommends individuals wear a face cloth covering when out in public places, and to maintain at least a six foot distance from others, such as in a grocery store or in a work setting, to further to reduce the transmission of the virus. This also applies to people with chronic lung disease. This recommendation to wear face cloth coverings in public is to protect others from your respiratory droplets, for example, when you cough, when you sneeze, when you talk, so that we can protect people and not spread the virus as fast as it’s actually been spreading as well. Since the mask is designed to protect others, it’s imperative that everyone wear a mask when out in public. This is to maintain and protect everyone’s health, and especially to reduce the most vulnerable from having COVID-19 complications.
Dr. Juanita Mora: (34:46)
Learn more about the American Lung Association’s COVID-19 action initiative at ala.org, and let’s mask up and save lives.
Dr. Juanita Mora: (36:40)
[foreign language 00:04: 58].
Dr. Juanita Mora: (36:41)
Next, I’d like to introduce the next speaker, who is Dr. Arnold. He’s former Director of the IDPH, and he’s retired Colonel of the Illinois Army National Guard, and he currently works at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.
Dr. Arnold: (37:02)
Thank you. First of all, I want to thank the Governor for allowing us to speak today, and for my following person, Dr. Ezike. Both of them have demonstrated wisdom and leadership, and that’s something we need in this time. We can look across the country and look at what’s happening in other states and see what happens when you have an absence of those qualities in your leadership.
Dr. Arnold: (37:27)
As mentioned, I’m a retired Army Colonel. I served two tours in Iraq. I had to wear somewhere between 40 to 60 pounds of armor in order to take care of soldiers. If I didn’t wear the armor, some people would not be in this country today.
Dr. Arnold: (37:48)
Wearing a mask is a simple thing to do. There was a slogan that we all know, “Just do it.” Just do it. I say, just wear it. Put the mask on. And the mandate that the Governor is talking about is something that you need to pay attention to. Why? Because right next door, we have another hospital with children who are battling cancer, whose families are crying to make sure that they live, and for someone to walk by one of them in the street and to pass on a virus to them to bring to their sick child next door and end their life needlessly, it’s inhumane. It’s immoral. And those people that the Governor’s protecting right now that are with these businesses, those business leaders are susceptible themselves. The Governor has a beautiful plan, five phases. He’s trying to reestablish this state. Dr. Ezike is trying to protect the lives of people. The local health departments, the doctors, the nurses, they’re trying to protect people.
Dr. Arnold: (39:10)
Those people who would go against this ruling are the same people that could fall susceptible to this virus and not reestablish our state. It’s doctors, it’s nurses, it’s business owners. It’s people who are actually in this state who are doing things that are remarkable. It’s our faith-based leaders. We’ve lost people across the board, it’s not just people sitting in nursing homes after the age of 50. Why this mask is so important is because not wearing the mask and you walking by someone and not having this mandate in place can take the life of your parents and your grandparents. It’s that simple. You would never put your kid in a car in their car seat and drive down the street recklessly. Why do it with the mask? Why leave this off that it can save someone else’s life? It’s such a simple thing to wear.
Dr. Arnold: (40:15)
The people I was with in combat wore their armor, because they knew the reality of what could happen to them if they did not. Not wearing this mask can take an innocent person’s life, someone with chronic diseases, so make sure that you wear this mask and you follow the dictates that the Governor has out, and the directives that are coming from Public Health and all the other agencies under the Governor’s auspices. If you don’t do that, you are risking the life of your own family, your own future. Make sure you do this. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to the Governor for his comments.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (41:03)
Thank you very much, Doctor. Thanks so much. Happy to take any questions from members of the media.
Michelle Gallardo: (41:07)
Governor, Michelle Gallardo from ABC 7, I am the [inaudible 00:41:12] reporter for the day. I understand that this new rule [inaudible 00:41:20] the idea of a warning if [inaudible 00:41:23] compliance, but let me ask you, because at this point the media talks about mask compliance, and the issues become so politicized that there are businesses that are not enforcing it just because, as you mentioned, to make a point. And so is there [inaudible 00:41:42] the purpose to issuing the warnings [inaudible 00:41:47] rather than just hit them where it hurts, which is where their pocket [inaudible 00:41:50] fine.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (41:52)
Well, as you know, we launched an education campaign, a $5 million campaign, to encourage people to wear masks. We’ve been doing it, of course, for five months, as you pointed out, and many people are doing it. Just so you understand, many, many businesses are doing the right thing, but it’s not fair to those businesses when their competitors are not doing the right thing, and so we think it’s fair to hold everybody accountable, to hold everybody to the same standard, and we’re doing it in a way that should allow businesses to get it right. They’re going to get warned, they’re going to have a second opportunity to make sure that they’re getting it right, and then ultimately, if they’re refusing to do it, they’re going to get a fine. And we want to give this…
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (42:41)
Remember, this is something that local officials asked us for, because if they don’t have a local law on the books, then they’re looking to the state for enforcement capability, and unfortunately, the way the law is written today, there’s only nothing, or the misdemeanor that would result in the potential of removing their license. So what we wanted to do was to give something in between, and that’s why this rule makes so much sense.
Michelle Gallardo: (43:14)
Would it be better if just [inaudible 00:43:24] a lot stricter anywhere? The things that struck me that Dr. Murphy said was, “If we were in Germany, we would all be at home right now.” And to that point, as an example, in Madrid in Spain right now, if you’re not wearing a mask on the street, they will fine you [crosstalk 00:13:35].
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (43:42)
Michelle Gallardo: (43:43)
Obviously, we’re not at that point with fining people walking down the street.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (43:43)
Michelle Gallardo: (43:43)
But, should we get to that point when it comes to businesses?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (43:46)
Well, we are in fact, right? We’re going to fine businesses that aren’t living up to the rule here. Remember, this is a very simple ask. It really is. Live up to the capacity limits that we’ve put in place. They’ve been doing it under fire code for many years, and they can get fined if they don’t live up to it there, and they get warned and then they get fined. They ought to live up to the capacity limits that we’re setting here for public health purposes, and then masks. I mean, it’s a very simple ask. It really isn’t…
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (44:18)
I loved, Dr. Landon said, “It really isn’t that bad to wear a mask. It isn’t that terrible.” And it’s uncomfortable, it’s strange, it’s an unusual thing. Most people have never done it, but you can get used to it, and particularly because I think we all have a general sense that we’re going to get through this thing. Maybe it’s nine months from now or a year from now or shorter I hope, but in the meantime, why should we risk the public health? Why should we allow people to get sick, to fill up the hospitals, to maybe have permanent damage done to their lungs, or to die.
Michelle Gallardo: (44:54)
Governor, a couple of questions from my colleagues over at CBS 2. One of the other things you talked about, of course that we…
Michelle Gallardo: (45:01)
One of the things that we talked about of course that we need to bring this under control is to control the size for the mass. And one of the questions I got here was they received a course over at CBS, not sponsored by schools. They’ve attracted hundreds of people to the sidelines with curfew, with masks, with social distancing, all this happening on Park District Property. Now the question is should this be allowed and do the particular municipalities there have a responsibility to shut them down?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (45:39)
We’re giving them the very tools that allow them to shut that down. Many municipalities don’t have it. Some do some have already passed ordinances to deal with this, to break up these events. But this rule itself gives tools to every municipality all across the state for enforcement.
Michelle Gallardo: (45:59)
So the following question to that was if this is sort of moving on, what can we expect as of tomorrow that schools will be restarting some of their sports, cross country, tennis, golf. To your point, if [inaudible 00:46:18].
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (46:19)
Yes. I mean, to the extent that people are not following the rules, then local County public health officials, for example, have the ability to go in again, starting with a warning, working with the schools to try and rectify the matter.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (46:32)
But ultimately we do have the ability to shut down a school if they just refuse to enforce. We want our children, our parents, our teachers, our paraprofessionals to be safe.
Michelle Gallardo: (46:43)
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (46:56)
Yes, they have the ability to enforce the law on park ground too.
Michelle Gallardo: (47:01)
I have a question for you. A couple of questions from a poll we have from Center Square. One of them is, with school starting schools back soon, and most parents, many of them are not able to stay home with children under 13 so they can learn virtually. Those states for example Arizona where they are actually mandating that schools offer in person learning to either low income families or children with special needs. Is that something that Illinois is considering mandating and why or why not?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (47:42)
We offer a variety of childcare. In fact, emergency childcare is something that we did almost right away when the pandemic broke out. So we have existing childcare facilities that we’ve made sure there’s good guidance around so they can provide childcare. And we also have emergency childcare that we put in place.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (48:01)
We’re trying to expand as much as possible childcare for any family that needs it. Obviously it’s challenging if schools are not open for parents to find a place to put their child during the day, if they work. And so that’s what we’re trying to work with local governments and local county officials on expanding.
Michelle Gallardo: (48:27)
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (48:35)
Well, there’s e-learning. The Illinois State Board of Education put in place a set of guidelines for every school district. Every school district is required to provide a public education for every child in that school district that’s of school age.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (48:53)
And so they’re either providing it over a distance learning in a hybrid fashion or in person. Some schools have chosen to go all distance learning. Some schools have chosen to go mostly in person. But all schools have the ability to offer all three of those things. And indeed, federal dollars came to the state at the discretion of the governor. And I put almost nearly all of it in fact, toward the idea of distance learning enhancement.
Michelle Gallardo: (49:25)
So governor the question is should there be a mandate for all school districts to require the offer of in person are given to those with special needs or for low income?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (49:41)
No, because if you can’t provide in person learning safely, then we should not be requiring it.
Michelle Gallardo: (49:48)
Another question from center square is Illinois was talking about a cooperation between the Midwestern states an kind of common plans. And [inaudible 00:50:05]?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (50:23)
This is a question about the Midwestern governors and how we work together. I regularly speak with on conference call with Midwestern governors, and we’ve actually been quite a bit of help to each other in this process. I mean, I’ll point out Illinois has done better than any state that it neighbors and I thank the people of Illinois for carrying out what we have suggested they ought to be doing. We need more of it because we’re headed in the wrong direction, but so are all of those States around us. And we’re challenged by all that.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (50:55)
And so I speak with, for the governor of Wisconsin, the governor of Indiana and others about how can we do better? Because I want to make sure they do better. That helps us too where there are people that live in Illinois that work in neighboring States, people who live in neighboring States that work in Illinois. So there’s no way to keep people from crossing the border. People do that daily and we don’t want to do that. What we do want is for there to be a regional decline in the numbers.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (51:26)
I will say that if we had responsible leadership in the White House, if we had leadership that cared about having a national strategy we would have dealt with this months ago. We should have a national mask mandate. Instead we have state by state a patchwork quilt. We were one of the earliest States to put one in place. We’re continuing to try to enforce it with this rule.
Michelle Gallardo: (51:48)
One last question from the Center Square, that is regarding IDOT and fact the agency has not provided any updates that reflect COVID 19 while [inaudible 00:52:03] So the question is how will taxpayers know what infrastructure projects, roads, bridges, etc. are going to [inaudible 00:52:15] .
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (52:14)
Well, we won’t know until you know actually all of the revenue decline that occurred. The Rebuild Illinois is dependent upon revenue from gas taxes. And, there were many people not driving, especially during the stay at home order. And still even now. It also we closed down casinos and video gaming terminals for some time. Those were also providing revenue for our Rebuild Illinois campaign.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (52:42)
So all of that has had a detrimental effect. There’s no doubt about it. And we’re trying very hard to get up and running those shovel ready projects. I just announced one on Friday and to get jobs going again all across the state. But this is in part revenue dependent.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (53:00)
Your question provides me an opportunity to say to our federal partners, to the congressmen, particularly the Republican congressmen in our delegation, to Republican senators from all over the country and to the white house that they should pass and sign a bill that includes funding for state and local governments, because it will allow us to make sure we’ve got police and firefighters and first responders working to make sure we can fund the projects that we need to to keep the state moving forward. And remember, these are all revenues that were lost to COVID-19.
Michelle Gallardo: (53:39)
I have a question here from my colleague Karen [Levasque 00:53:43] from CBS News. She was wondering if she could get your thoughts on the mayors press to tighten restrictions on [inaudible 00:53:56] they hear the messages but they’re not really following it.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (54:15)
That picture was I think horrifying to many people standing here. And I think everybody who saw it in the newspaper. It’s a demonstration of what we’ve seen in the numbers, which is that young people are not taking this as seriously as they should. And unfortunately, we see that the numbers of young people who are contracting COVID-19 have gone way up. They’re the largest cohort and this is deeply concerning.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (54:44)
And so what I would say is that I commend the mayor for, as she has all along, taking this seriously. Making sure that she’s addressing these problems where they occur. And frankly, there are mayors all across the state that have done the right thing. There are others that need help.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (55:05)
And frankly, this is one of the things that we’re talking about today. This rule is going to give them the enforcement mechanism so that County boards of public health, local law enforcement, local public officials have the ability to enforce masks and physical distancing.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (55:22)
Folks you heard it from all the experts behind me. I read this stuff every day. I call folks that are standing around me, doctors from around the country. I talked to Dr. Fauci on a somewhat regular basis. And every one of the professionals and experts and scientists, doctors that I talked to says, if we would just enforce masks and distancing.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (55:46)
If people would just do that, that we could eliminate or at least severely reduce the number of people who contract COVID-19. And that’s what we’re all attempting to do today in this press conference. So thank you all very much.