Dec 17, 2020

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 17

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 17
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsIllinois Gov. JB Pritzker COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 17

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker held a press conference on December 17 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing here.

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Governor Pritzker: (00:06)
Well, good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the COVID-19 update for Thursday, December the 17th. Today, I want to provide an update on the vaccine distribution statewide, with a focus on the situation outside of the city of Chicago. As we’ve said previously, Illinois’ first-week Pfizer vaccine allotment totaled 109,000 Pfizer vaccine doses. That breaks down to about 23,000 for the city of Chicago, and 86,000 for the rest of the state of Illinois. On Monday, excluding federal direct delivery to the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois received the first 43,000 doses, about half of our allotment. From there, distribution was made from our Illinois Strategic National Stockpile to hospitals across the state. Doses were delivered first to our regional hospital coordinating centers, and also direct to DuPage County, then onto 45 counties and local health departments, finally arriving at 77 hospitals all across the state.

Governor Pritzker: (01:22)
I’m pleased to say that all shipments arrived safely and securely at their destinations over the course of the last two days. As of this morning, about 3,500 vaccinations out of those deliveries had already been given, all to healthcare workers, with many more scheduled for today and throughout the weekend. And to be clear, that’s just out of our initial statewide shipment, separate and apart from Chicago. We’ll be sure to provide regular updates on that number in the days and weeks ahead. Today, 43,000 additional doses arrived from the federal government at Cook County Department of Public Health, Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, Madison County Health Department, and St. Claire County Health Department. With these latest shipments, Illinois will have received the entirety of this week’s vaccine allotment. It is truly exciting to see these healthcare workers, our heroes, on the front lines of the pandemic, who have put themselves at risk every day to save lives, begin to receive their vaccines.

Governor Pritzker: (02:36)
As we approach the end of Hanukkah, and with Christmas and Kwanza and New Year’s Eve in sight, I need to offer a reminder that we all wish didn’t have to be said. These next few weeks, and really these next few months, are going to be crucial in our fight to keep people healthy. Experts across the nation agree that this could be the deadliest time of the pandemic. Until the vaccine is available to everyone, and until we eradicate this virus once and for all, we must continue working to protect one another. Estimates show that tens of thousands of lives can be saved between now and the projected end of this pandemic if we all take mask-wearing seriously and avoid gatherings. This holiday season, I’m asking all Illinoisans to commit to that goal. The best way we can protect our frontline workers and slow the spread of this virus is to double down on mask-wearing, social distancing, washing hands frequently.

Governor Pritzker: (03:46)
Each of our individual choices, meeting up with your cousins at Grandma’s for Christmas, jetting off to reunions for New Year’s, these are choices that affect not just the other people who choose to partake in them, but whole communities. Our choices affect the cashier at the grocery store, the janitor at work, other people’s loved ones, and our own. Let me close with a reminder of what we know about COVID-19, because this information can help everyone be even just a little bit safer, and that matters. Here’s what the science tells us. The greatest risk comes when you have a group of people together in an indoor space that has limited flow of fresh air, and when we’re doing things like singing and talking without masks on. The research shows you don’t have to be symptomatic to spread this virus to other people who may get much sicker than you might.

Governor Pritzker: (04:49)
And a negative test is no guarantee that you don’t have the virus, because you can catch it at any time beginning right after you’ve been tested. Every expert and every study shows that wearing a mask and keeping six feet of distance is a very effective way to avoid getting this virus. So mask up, keep your distance, and plan smaller, more intimate celebrations this year. Let’s give each other the greatest gift of all this holiday season, good health and a bright future. And I’d now like to turn it over to our Director of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike. Doctor.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (05:43)
Good afternoon. The CDC and the FDA have updated recommendations regarding the number of doses that are available in the multi-dose Pfizer vials. So in the vials that we’ve already distributed and that we’re beginning to use and use all across the state, we were initially given the guidance that each vial contained five doses, so that’s five individuals that could be injected with the vaccine. At this time, given the public health emergency, the FDA is advising that it’s acceptable to use every full dose that can be obtained from this vial. And from what people have seen here in Illinois and across other states, a sixth dose can be extracted from that vial, and in some cases, even a seventh dose. What has to be clear is that any remaining vaccine that is in the vial that does not equal a full dose can not be combined with remnants from other vials.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (06:48)
We don’t want to waste any vaccine, but it’s also critical that we make sure that every individual receives a full, safe, and effective dose of vaccine. Vaccine safety and protection is our focus. In the last 24 hours, more than 92,000 COVID-19 tests were resulted, for a total of more than 12.1 million tests here in Illinois. Today, we are reporting 8,828 new individuals that were diagnosed with COVID for the first time, for a total of 879,428 cases. Since yesterday, we have received reports of 181 new individuals who have lost their battle with COVID, and that brings our total lives lost to 14,835 just here in Illinois, just since the beginning of this pandemic in 2020. Overnight, 4,801 individuals were in the hospital with COVID, and of those, 1,063 were in the intensive care unit. 575 patients were on ventilators. While we continue to see new cases, we still have people going into the hospital every day, and clearly we have ongoing deaths.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (08:19)
I am guarded that we are headed in the right direction in terms of the numbers trending slightly downward, but that’s not an indication that we should throw caution to the wind and make large holiday and New Year’s Eve plans and gatherings. As the governor already mentioned, this is the time of year for friends and family, but I would like to ask that you continue to celebrate the holidays virtually or in-person with the people that you live with. Send holiday cards, drop off gifts, do caroling outside, call, video chat, text, but stick with the people that you live with.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (09:03)
But stick with the people that you live with. I especially want to encourage the young adults who sometimes feel invincible that you too need to take precautions. For nearly two months, we have seen that the highest number of cases have been in the age group 20 to 29 and while these younger people are much less likely to suffer severe illness, we still see that those younger individuals can expose our older family, our older friends, who could suffer much more severe illness if they were to gather for the holidays. I strongly urge people to stay home and celebrate safely so that we can have our giant post-pandemic celebration. Thank you so much for your support. [Spanish 00:09:52]

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (09:51)
With that, I’ll turn it over to Governor Pritzker.

Governor Pritzker: (14:27)
Thanks Dr. Ezike. Happy to take questions from members of the media. Chris.

Chris: (14:32)
Hi Governor, can you offer any better picture of why we’re learning about that delay later in the month? Have you learned anything more? I know the folks at Pfizer are saying it’s not on their end. Anything new?

Governor Pritzker: (14:42)
They have not provided us with any information, the federal government. We get to see what the order book can look like for us for the coming week and they haven’t given us any explanation of why those numbers are smaller than they were before.

Chris: (14:59)
And the fact that we’re going to see that shortage, is there any reason for folks getting vaccinated this week to be concerned that in two weeks’ time there’s going to be a shortage meaning is there enough to give the second shot for those getting the first shot now?

Governor Pritzker: (15:13)
There is enough for everybody to get a second shot. That’s at least what the federal government is telling us and they’re telling us that they will make sure that the right numbers are delivered in the three weeks hence when people will get vaccinated with their second dose.

Speaker 1: (15:29)
Governor Pritzker, on the PSA that you made with the other day from around the Midwest and Kentucky, you said that until everyone has access to a vaccine and it’s eradicated, we still need to protect one another. What does that mean for Phase Five and does Phase Five look differently than it is on the website?

Governor Pritzker: (15:46)
No. It doesn’t look different. No. I was just pointing out the obvious. I think I said it again today which is until people are vaccinated, until we have herd immunity –

Speaker 1: (15:56)
Right but how many percentage of the Illinois population is it? 75%. Is there –

Governor Pritzker: (16:01)
Dr. Ezike can probably answer that better than I can.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (16:04)
So again, let’s recall that we’re dealing with a virus that we have not encountered before so we have never achieved the herd immunity. The estimates say that it’s 60 to 80% so that’s the numbers that we’re working on and obviously we’re very far from that but as close as we get to that. In the meantime I think the numbers as more people are vaccinated, the test positivity will likely go down because transmission will be decreased with every single vaccine that is actually put into the arms of individuals. So I expect that we will continue to see improved trajectories as more and more people are vaccinated but we won’t be [inaudible 00:16:44]

Speaker 1: (16:44)
It will never be eradicated, right? I mean because we [inaudible 00:16:46] the flu and a cold, they’re always going to be around.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (16:49)
We can get to the point where there’s very low community transmission. We can get to the point where there’s so few cases that we can contact trace everyone in realtime that there won’t be backups in the labs in terms of getting results. We can identify people quickly, we can contact trace, isolate everybody quickly. We can quarantine the few people that would need to be quarantined because we’re not dealing with massive numbers. So it still can get to an end if we can get to these subsequently improved situations.

Speaker 2: (17:15)
Dr. Ezike, can you speak to the number of deaths that we’re seeing now? I know that you’re feeling some cautious optimism there but we’re in several consecutive, 10 consecutive days of death over 100 in the triple digits at this point.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (17:28)
No. I mean let’s remember that we’re still talking about 8,000 cases that are identified. If you have 8,000 cases, there is going to be a day … A few weeks from now where corresponding to that that you’re going to have over 100 deaths. And so yes the numbers are less and we’re hoping we can get to a point where the cases are significantly decreasing but unfortunately first of all the deaths lag weeks after we identify that case and so until there are essentially no cases then there will be the point where we can talk about having very –

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (18:03)
… then then there will be the point where we can talk about having very, very few deaths or not. But we’re still a ways away from that, unfortunately, but that is the sad truth. And so we really need to work. Because we’re so close, it really seems like worst to have someone get infected now and succumb to this virus when we’re really close to having a way to not have that be the eventuality. So I want us all to work together to see how we can decrease transmission while we’re getting to that herd immunity.

Speaker 1: (18:31)
Dr. Ezike, are hospice patients going to be given the vaccine, if the hospice patients are in long-term care facilities? We had a lot of people call and ask that.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (18:38)
No, that’s a great question. And so please remember that a hospice patient, usually they have decided that they don’t want to go for additional medical care or aggressive needs. So, every vaccine will still require some form of consent. So if the patient is not of the state of mind where they can give consent, there’s still a legal guardian or someone who’s responsible for that individual, who will have to say if it’s going to be given or not. So that person will make the decision for that patient.

Speaker 1: (19:12)
Thank you.

Chris: (19:14)
[crosstalk 00:19:14] Sorry, go ahead.

Speaker 3: (19:14)
I was just going to say go ahead, too.

Chris: (19:16)
This bonus vaccines that we’re finding, how surprising from a scientific standpoint? Is this wildly unforeseen, or was this something that was kind of potentially in the cards?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (19:31)
I did not know that there was the potential to extract a sixth dose. I think is when the vaccines were rolled out and people were drawing it up and they gave the fifth vaccine, it was like, “Wait, there’s still more here.” And figured out that how many ever CCs is enough for an entire sixth dose. Again, I’m not I’m in the drug manufacturing business. So I don’t know if they purposely put … because if you’re trying to draw something out and you have to draw a CC reading the calibrations on the syringe, you might be concerned that maybe somebody drew 1.1 or 1.1 and a half. And so I think maybe they put a little extra in there. So in case somebody drew 1.1 that you wouldn’t get to that fifth dose and be short. So they probably built that in, but if somebody is perfect and gets one, one, one, then that extra might still be there. So, I think that could be a good thing in terms of being able to vaccinate more people than originally thought. So, this might work in our favor.

Chris: (20:35)
Is there any way to quantify how much extra that might be?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (20:36)
Again, it depends on how people draw it out. Because you heard people saying it could be six, it could be seven depending on how you draw it out.

Speaker 4: (20:41)
What’s the next step? Looking ahead to now to the next shipment. Forgive me if you’ve answered this before, but I just, can you clarify that? What are we expecting next?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (20:50)
Right. So I’m slow to put out numbers until things are confirmed. The numbers are changing. So I think it’s better that we know things more definitively than putting out the numbers that end up being revised. So yeah, I think it’s better to just hold off on the forecasting.

Governor Pritzker: (21:12)
We’re all very hopeful because the Moderna vaccine seems to be on track. But we’ve not been given numbers of the numbers confirmed anyway for delivery.

Chris: (21:22)
Governor, regions six and nine have met the criteria to be moved out of tier three mitigation. It doesn’t appear that that’s happened yet. Do you plan to? If not, why not? As they meet the scientific levels that you all say you’re going to follow.

Governor Pritzker: (21:39)
As you know, a couple of weeks ago out of concern for the idea that we would have a surge here, we basically stepped back from taking regions out of tier three in hopes that we could bring the numbers down significantly across state. They’re coming down, not by enormous numbers, but they’re going the right direction. And we’re very hopeful that things will continue in the right direction. But as Dr Ezike said, when you’re still talking about 8,000 plus cases, for example in a day, that means as you were mentioning earlier, that as you project forward, that means quite a number of people will still pass away as a percentage of that. So, just deeply concerned that we bring the numbers down to a level where we’re seeing much better numbers. Even our positivity rates, although they’ve come down, still are not near the who recommended 5%.

Chris: (22:38)
Can I follow up that?

Governor Pritzker: (22:40)
Yes, of course.

Speaker 1: (22:41)
Especially downstate. There’s plenty of skepticism about why the metrics were put in the places they were put. I don’t have to tell you the yard signs that popped up downstate or painted on green bins that mentioned your name. If you’re not following the metrics and the science that you all laid out publicly, does that give people more reason to be skeptical?

Governor Pritzker: (23:05)
No, they should know that we’re following the science. As I said, when I talked about this a couple of weeks ago. And not just Dr. Fauci, but the whole raft of doctors that we rely upon for their good advice as we move forward with this novel coronavirus are saying that we need to be deeply concerned about the gatherings that people may have around the holidays. And so, that’s why we made the decisions that we did. But everybody should know that there’s no way, this is not like anything that we’ve really experienced, any of us. In the sense that there’s no way for us to know exactly what day or at what point. You try to make your best determination based upon the science and follow the science as it goes. And things have moved around as you know. The numbers changed, sometimes from week to week. And we just want to make sure we’re staying on top of it and keeping everybody healthy while we’re trying to distribute the vaccines and make sure that people get through this pandemic alive.

Speaker 5: (24:11)
So after the holidays, then would you let region six and nine go back to-

Governor Pritzker: (24:15)
That’s my hope. Absolutely. I want to make sure … there’s no date set here, but suffice to say that I want as much as anybody else to open up as many things as we possibly can safely. And I do think that if we can bring the numbers down, continue that incline to the right place, that we’ll be able to open things up more significantly.

Speaker 6: (24:41)
Great. We’ll do one more question in the room. And then we got to go online.

Speaker 2: (24:44)
Governor, are you open to … yesterday. I was at the LaSalle veterans home hearing that the House Affairs Committee had, military affairs. The highest person who’s been held responsible for that, from a firing standpoint is the administrator of the home. Do you not think that should go higher? 33 lives were lost in that. Where do you stand on this? And it seems like an administrative level is just at the home as opposed to who else is watching this?

Governor Pritzker: (25:14)
Well, we made sure that the administrator of the home who is the highest ranking person who runs the home was let go.

Speaker 2: (25:22)
Well, shouldn’t it be higher than that? [inaudible 00:25:23] someone responsible?

Governor Pritzker: (25:22)
Well, we have an ongoing investigation to determine, and I want to hold anybody responsible and accountable who should be. And that’s why this investigation is ongoing, but suffice to say, we’ve made changes at the home to secure it, to make sure that the veterans that are there are being kept safe. And that’s the job that we have. I have enormous reverence for our fighting men and women, the people who’ve served our country. And making sure that we do everything that we can in this very unusual environment to try to protect our particularly senior citizens who have served us. That’s our obligation and it’s extraordinarily important to me. So, if there are changes that need to be made, we’re going to make them. But I want to make sure that we have a full investigation. We know everything that we need

Speaker 7: (26:11)
Has Director [inaudible 00:26:13] offered her resignation. Will you make her available to us at some point?

Governor Pritzker: (26:16)
Like I said, we’re in an ongoing investigation right now in order to get all the information. So again, anybody that should be held accountable, will be.

Speaker 7: (26:24)
But did she offer it and will she be made available?

Governor Pritzker: (26:28)
She has not offered it available in what way?

Speaker 7: (26:30)
To speak to us here? She hasn’t spoken-

Governor Pritzker: (26:33)
She went to a Senate hearing and spoke too. She does not get easy questions there.

Speaker 1: (26:39)
Matthew Roy at WICS. IDS engaged with Rodney Davis on … hold on one second. This question is broken up. US representative, Rodney Davis announced on Twitter that he is now a victim of fraud. This led to an exchange between him and the department on Twitter. Do you think this is the most professional and best way for the department to engage with members of the US Congress?

Governor Pritzker: (27:00)
Look, what I know is that the Congressman-

Governor Pritzker: (27:03)
Look, what I know is that the Congressman has been sniping without helping, that the Congressman goes to Washington, DC, says to everybody here that he’s helping, then goes there, votes against the things that would be of assistance to us. Remember that the federal government set up the programs, the federal government is responsible for making the changes that are necessary to these programs. And I’ve not heard a peep from him about what he’s going to do to help out.

Speaker 8: (27:31)
Dave Dahl, WTAX. Passing this along from a listener about the state’s finances. How about attacking the pension problem by, for example, putting new hires into a 401k?

Governor Pritzker: (27:42)
Well, I know Dave’s been around state government for a long time and understands all the challenges of the state budget. That’s certainly something that the legislature has considered in the past. As you know, we now have a tier two system. It’s actually been in place for nearly 10 years now. And almost half of state government workers, or nearly half, it will soon be half, are in that tier two system. And these are new people joining state government. And so, that has an enormous effect going forward on our state budget. In a positive way, I might add.

Speaker 8: (28:18)
Mike Miletich at Quincy TV. People have already started utilizing the COVID Help website over the last few weeks. How important do you feel these legal aid resources are for residents as the pandemic continues?

Governor Pritzker: (28:30)
Well, I mean, all the resources that have been made available, I mean, frankly, so many people need help during this pandemic. There are people that are suffering financially, who need legal help, there are people who are suffering from health consequences or family members suffering from health consequences. So all the resources that have been put forward, I think, are extraordinarily useful.

Speaker 8: (28:51)
John O’Connor at the AP. Did we avoid the surge on a surge? From November 1st through Thanksgiving, the state averaged 10,800 cases a day. Since Thanksgiving, 8,700 per day. Deaths, however, have gone from 85 per day pre-Thanksgiving to 136 post-holiday.

Governor Pritzker: (29:07)
Yeah. Have we avoided it? It is, of course, always very difficult to tell. We haven’t brought the numbers down to where we want them to be, but they haven’t skyrocketed. Illinois has done better than many of the states around us and certainly many of the states around the country that are still on an upward trajectory. But we need this to move downward at a continuing rate. And so, I watch them daily. I will say it is very difficult for those of us who are paying attention to the numbers every day, perhaps multiple times a day, to see that the numbers that are leading indicators are going the right direction and that’s can give you a hopeful feeling. And then to look at the number of people who are passing away on the same day that you’re looking at these hopeful leading indicators, here’s a lagging indicator that is, I mean, 184. Just think about the number of people that are passing away every day. It really is, it’s challenging, I must say.

Governor Pritzker: (30:09)
But suffice to say that if we keep doing what we’re doing on the front end, those numbers, those death numbers, the numbers of people who are passing away everyday will head in the right direction.

Speaker 8: (30:21)
[inaudible 00:30:21] at Politico. Does the state plan to fund or get involved in helping with outreach into Black and brown communities to get people on board for a vaccine the way the state funded outreach for the census?

Governor Pritzker: (30:31)
Yes, of course. I mean, that is a primary goal of mine, equity in this process. We want to make sure that people who may be avoiding getting vaccinated because they hear some information that’s false about it, that they have their concerns addressed and that they actually get vaccinated. So we’re going to do everything we can from not only a communication perspective to those folks, but also demonstrating with people who are from those communities, making sure that people know that they’re getting vaccinated and it’s safe. You saw that, by the way, at Peoria. When we had our first healthcare workers who were vaccinated, that it was a very diverse group and they were willing to step forward as examples for their communities,

Speaker 8: (31:23)
Jim Leach at WMAY. Any updates on the talks with ask me about furlough days? If the union refuses, what are your options to address personnel costs?

Governor Pritzker: (31:30)
Well, those are ongoing discussions, for sure. There’s no update to give you. But this is something that we’re working on. Every day there’s some work being done on it. And we’ll bring you up to date as soon as there’s anything to announce.

Speaker 8: (31:46)
Where is Illinois in regard to the funds it received from the CARES Act? And is it still on track to spend all of the money it received by the end of the year? That was Ryan Voyles.

Governor Pritzker: (31:54)
Yeah. So understand that what gets reported is often just those are the dollars that have actually gone out the door, but the requirement of the CARES Act is that those dollars are committed before the end of the year. And they are fully committed.

Speaker 8: (32:10)
Rich Miller at Capitol Fax. After yesterday’s House hearing, do you still have confidence in IDVA Director, Linda Chapa LaVia?

Governor Pritzker: (32:18)
Look, I want to know everything that occurred here. And that’s why the investigation that is ongoing is going to be extraordinarily informative. And then, again, I’m going to hold accountable people who deserve to be.

Speaker 8: (32:29)
Tony Arnold at WBEZ. What do you make of Pfizer saying it has millions of doses of the vaccine sitting in its warehouse awaiting direction from the federal government for where to send them?

Governor Pritzker: (32:39)
I don’t know what to say about that. I’ve not had any direct conversations with the people who control those doses. Our IDPH talks to the federal government every day, and we’ve not been informed why the federal government is not drawing down those vaccines.

Speaker 8: (32:56)
Hannah Meisel at NPR will be our last question. Governor, yesterday, Speaker Madigan sent a letter to his members saying he’s establishing an advisory group to review your proposed cuts. He says in his letter he wants to protect services like the community care program, which is an area you’ve proposed some cuts to. Is that inappropriate for him to do? If you think he should step down as speaker, especially given the fact that an inevitable fight over his speakership will prevent the legislature from actually taking up cuts or anything else until after January 13th?

Governor Pritzker: (33:26)
Well, any member of the legislature can send a letter to the rest of the legislature or any other members to talk about whatever they’d like. And in this case, I’m glad that members of the legislature are engaging in this conversation. They seem all to be on the Democratic side. The Republicans have been mute entirely, the very same folks who took off the table the best solution here. Turns out they have no plan of their own. But I will say there was a press conference that was held today by several members of the House and the Senate talking about their views about what should be on the table or what shouldn’t be on the table. And I think that’s extraordinarily useful and helpful for people to engage in the conversation and put forward their best ideas.

Speaker 8: (34:15)
All right. Thanks everyone.

Governor Pritzker: (34:15)
Thanks.

Speaker 9: (34:15)
[inaudible 00:34:20].

Speaker 8: (34:15)
[inaudible 00:34:22].

Speaker 9: (34:15)
I mean, she doesn’t answer our questions anyway. Appreciate it.