Nov 16, 2020
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript November 16
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker held a press conference on November 16 to discuss coronavirus updates. He urged people to consider the safety of holiday plans amidst a spike in COVID-19 cases. Read the transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Governor Pritzker: (00:02)
Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to the COVID-19 update for Monday, November the 16th. Dr. Ezike and I today will be joined today by Dr. Michael Kulisz, the chief medical officer for Northwestern Medicine’s Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb, located in Region 1; and Ruth Colby, president and CEO of Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, located in Region 7. These healthcare leaders are here today with a simple plea: stay home if you can, and wear a mask if you need to go out, because what nurses and doctors and healthcare workers are experiencing right now in their hospitals is a crisis as challenging as the one they experienced last spring. These are our frontline healthcare heroes, and they need our help support right now.
Governor Pritzker: (01:01)
The nation has been swept by a COVID storm that has taken Illinois’ positivity rate from low single digits to the mid-teens. And with nearly no mitigations in the states bordering us and no national strategy to reduce the spread, we’re in for a very difficult next few months, but there’s a lot each of us can do to keep our loved ones here in Illinois as protected as possible.
Governor Pritzker: (01:29)
Before this latest wave, we reached our hospitalization peak six months ago. As of our most current data, we are today averaging more than 5,200 patients fighting COVID-19 in our hospitals. That’s 400 more individuals than at our spring high, and a 70% increase in the last two weeks alone. And crucially, not only are we seeing more people coming into our hospitals with COVID, but the rate of increase itself continues to grow at an alarming rate. Our most recent week-over-week percent increase is three times what it was in early October. And our doctors, nurses, EMTs, hospitals, social workers and respiratory therapists are paying the price. They’re exhausted, often working overtime and double shifts.
Governor Pritzker: (02:29)
And remember, this is a moment when the entire nation is seeing record highs in hospitalizations, more than at any prior time in this pandemic. That fact is more than a frightening backdrop because it means that there are no healthcare workers to call in as reinforcements from other states. It means that out-of-state nurses and nurses assistants who signed up to support Illinois in the spring are busy in their own states. It means that, even more than in the spring, we have to step up to support our health care workers and do everything in our power to prevent people from contracting COVID-19. We have the knowledge and the tools to accomplish that by staying home, by wearing masks when we must go out and by avoiding gatherings until we can get to a place where it’s safe to come together again.
Governor Pritzker: (03:28)
In the spring, COVID seemed to many like this was a problem mostly for big cities like Chicago or St. Louis, as rural areas had far lower positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths. As I said back then and have said throughout this pandemic, this virus knows no boundaries. What we’re seeing now is a widespread problem across every region of Illinois, all at once.
Governor Pritzker: (03:56)
And let’s get something clear. If we wait to take action until our hospitals are full, it will be too late, and countless patients, COVID patients, as well as those with all the other ailments and injuries that bring people to the hospital, will die unnecessary deaths because there aren’t enough beds or people to staff them. So, we’re keeping in close touch with hospitals on an individual system level and regional level basis to monitor who is at risk of running out of staff or ICU beds in the next three weeks.
Governor Pritzker: (04:33)
But I want to be clear. We can’t create new staff for a hospital that’s filled to the brim. We can’t staff more ICU beds if a hospital’s personnel get sick outside of work because people in their communities refuse to wear a mask or follow any of the mitigation rules. We need everyone to pitch in so that we can protect our heroes who are on the front lines.
Governor Pritzker: (05:03)
In just a moment, you’ll be hearing from the two hospital leaders who are here to share their stories of what they’re seeing on the front lines in their communities. The regions that are home to their hospitals, Region 1, that’s in Northwestern Illinois; and Region 7, Will and Kankakee Counties, have both long since surpassed the worst COVID-19 hospitalization rates that they ever saw last spring. Region 1 has more than doubled its spring peak, and Region 7 is at 150% of its spring peak. Neither is showing signs of stopping their rise. But these regions are not unique. They are not outliers. This is the story that we’re seeing in regional hospital systems all across the state.
Governor Pritzker: (05:54)
Deaths are a lagging indicator, meaning that the people who pass away today were likely diagnosed days or weeks ago. And sadly, some portion of the people diagnosed today will, in days and weeks to come, be fighting for their lives in an intensive care unit without the ability to have family with them. Count back several weeks ago, and ask if there was a gathering that took place in your neighborhood that could have spread the virus. Then ask yourself if it’s worth it to spread the virus at any upcoming gatherings. Knowing that deaths are a lagging indicator, it’s all the more concerning that even before winter, we are already seeing the consequences of significantly rising case rates and hospitalizations across the state. And we can expect much worse to come if mitigation measures aren’t followed leading into Thanksgiving. We don’t want to end up like the Dakotas, for example, which have taken far fewer proactive efforts to reduce the spread and are currently seeing per capita death rates more than twice what we’re seeing here in Illinois.
Governor Pritzker: (07:09)
You can prevent this, but you have to act now. The consequences of inaction go deeper than just this disease. Every bed in the hospital that a COVID patient takes up, is a bed that’s not going to treat someone’s heart attack, a cancer patient or the victim of a car crash. Every doctor reassigned to the COVID wing is a doctor no longer available to do an appendectomy, set a broken rib or monitor newborns. Add onto it that flu season sends tens of thousands of Americans to the hospital every year. Take into account that we have just 1,100 ICU beds open in a state of nearly 13 million people in the middle of a pandemic.
Governor Pritzker: (07:58)
Deaths from COVID-19 are up 260% since the beginning of October, when we were averaging 23 deaths a day; and 98% from two weeks ago, when we were averaging 41 per day. Now, we’re seeing 81 deaths per day. That means that every day, we’re averaging another 81 mothers or fathers or children or grandchildren no longer with us, adding to the total of Illinoisans lost, now at more than 11,000; and the number of Americans lost, now at 246,000.
Governor Pritzker: (08:42)
With all the other causes of death, we fight like hell to keep people alive. When the number of people dying in car accidents was much higher, we decided to require seatbelts and increase the penalties for those charged with the most horribly negligent crimes, like drunk driving, with vehicular manslaughter. By doing these things, we significantly reduced the numbers of lives lost. When seasonal flu was much more deadly than today, we implemented a national strategy to provide annual flu vaccine at a low cost or free. And now, every corner clinic and doctor’s office tries to vaccinate everyone who walks in the door in the fall to bring that number down. Cancer in its various forms takes hundreds of thousands of our loved ones every single year. So, we pour billions of dollars into research to someday put an end to this tragic disease. We have to fight against this one too.
Governor Pritzker: (09:45)
I know that it is incredibly difficult that we’re still living with this pandemic, and it’s exceptionally exhausting to think that for all that we’ve sacrificed, this new COVID storm is taking more and more lives. But we have to remember that we can contain the damage that this is causing, and there will be an end to this. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. There will be an end. This will be over someday.
Governor Pritzker: (10:14)
We’re seeing incredibly innovative, wonderful news on the vaccine front. Just this morning, Moderna announced outstanding preliminary results of nearly 95% protection for those who were vaccinated. And while the Moderna and Pfizer models both use mRNA technology, Moderna’s vaccine can be stored at much lower temperatures, meaning that it could prove especially functional in reaching people who live farther from the hospital. Between the two announcements and the countless incredible public and private sector researchers who fuel it, we have real hope for possible widespread distribution by early spring. Still, that’s months away. So, we have to let that inspire us not to give up and…
Governor Pritzker: (11:03)
… so have to let that inspire us not to give up, and to take more precautions for ourselves and for our healthcare workers. Let’s do all that we can to save lives now so that more Illinoisans, more Americans, will be here when the vaccine is here to get the vaccine and get to the other side of this pandemic. Thank you, and with that I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Ngozi Ezike: (11:25)
Thank you sir. Thank you, and good afternoon. This is the week before Thanksgiving, and I want to remind people that it is not too late to rethink your Thanksgiving day plans. They need to be more aligned with COVID-19 precautions. We can all see it. Things are getting worse, and so those initial plans that you made several months ago, even several weeks ago, they may need to change. Do your plans include those who are over 60? Do your plans include those who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk? Are some of your intended guests pregnant? You have to be thinking about all of these things before you bring additional people into your home. The best way to share this holiday is virtually. You really have to consider doing it that way.
Ngozi Ezike: (12:25)
Let’s not gamble with a virus that has already stolen from us, robbed us, of nearly 11 million people in just eight months. Since yesterday, 11,632 new cases of COVID have been reported for a total of 585,248 cases in the State of Illinois. This includes reports of 37 additional lives lost for a total of 10,779 deaths in Illinois. Again, these are our neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, grandparents, all of those empty seats around our Thanksgiving table from next week. 5,581 people were reported to be in the hospital overnight with COVID-19, and of those, 1,144 patients were in the ICU, and 514 were on ventilators. In the last 24 hours, more than 90,000 tests have been reported, for more than 9.1 million tests in Illinois.
Ngozi Ezike: (13:33)
Everyone’s going to tell you the same thing. Our hospitals are on their way to being overwhelmed. Our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are already being stretched beyond their limits. I don’t know how else to express the importance of personal responsibility. It is each individual’s action. My actions, your actions, all of our actions that will dictate our path forward. Don’t see it as you’re watching this movie and you’re sitting back in your chair trying to figure out how the story ends. You are in the movie. You’re one of the actors. You’re also one of the directors. You get to determine how this movie plays out. Please write the lines so that it involves people wearing their masks and avoiding situations that promote the spread of this virus.
Ngozi Ezike: (14:25)
Let’s write a script and act out a script that will get us to the end of this pandemic sooner rather than later. We want to see less cases, less hospitalizations, less deaths. We can do that. We can wash our hands. We can wear a mask. We can forgo some of these events, even these holiday events. And I won’t say forgo, we’ll celebrate them. Let’s celebrate them virtually. You can cook. People who love to cook, cook the food and leave it at the doorstep for people to pick it up so they can still enjoy your culinary expertise. But we have to reverse the course that we’re currently on. We are in for a rough ride for the next three months or so. Just how bumpy it really gets depends on each of us. Let’s hang in there together and be all in for Illinois. Thank you.
Ngozi Ezike: (17:18)
[Spanish 00:04:14]. And with that I’ll turn it back over to Governor Pritzker.
Governor Pritzker: (18:05)
Thank you, Dr. Ezike. I’d like to welcome our first of two guest speakers streaming in from their respective communities to share their insights and to remind Illinoisans of the people that we’re all fighting for. First, Dr. Michael Kulisz, an Emergency Medical Specialist and Chief Medical Officer for both Northwestern Medicine’s Kishwaukee Hospital, and for Northwestern’s Valley West, a critical access care hospital. He’s going to talk about the concerning rise in cases in the DeKalb area. Dr. Kulisz.
Michael Kulisz: (18:46)
Thank you, governor. As the governor mentioned, our hospitals are located in Region 1 and the numbers have over doubled from what we thought was the peak in late spring and early summer. We’ve developed surge plans that are going to allow us to go ahead and flex up and down as the volumes increase, and we’re confident that we can implement the surge plans quickly if needed. The physicians, nurses, and staff have done a phenomenal job rising to meet the challenge of increased volumes, taking care of the patients there that they serve.
Michael Kulisz: (19:24)
It’s important for the community to understand that each of the hospitals is a safe place to come to. I know early in the pandemic some patients opted to stay home because of their fear that it wasn’t safe if they’re in the hospitals. But the hospitals are going to put a lot of things in place, including PPE, hand washing stations, visitor policies, that does make it safe for patients to come. So if someone does have a medical emergency, please feel comfortable coming there to the hospital.
Michael Kulisz: (19:54)
The important piece though is, as we continue to have the volumes go up, it is very difficult for our staff, our physicians, our clinical and nonclinical staff, to continue the long hours they are working, and resources are going to dry up. So it’s important for all of us to do our part, and our part isn’t that difficult. It’s simple. It’s masks. It’s physical distancing. It’s washing our hands, and it staying home and avoiding gatherings when we can. By doing this we hopefully will flatten the curve and get back to what was once normal. Thank you.
Governor Pritzker: (20:32)
Thank you very much Dr. Kulisz. Appreciate you sharing your experiences, and to you and all of your colleagues for your courageous service throughout this pandemic. I know that it’s not the challenge that you envisioned when you got into medicine, but you’ve taken it on, and you’re doing a tremendous job. Thank you.
Governor Pritzker: (20:54)
I’m grateful as well for our second speaker, Ruth Colby, President and CEO of Silver Cross Hospital in New Lennox in Will County. Ruth has been with Silver Cross for 15 years and has paved an impressive and innovative career path in the field of healthcare, and in joining us today … She is joining us today rather, to testify to the problematic trajectory that Silver Cross is seeing going into the holiday season. Doctor, or Ruth. Sorry.
Ruth Colby: (21:27)
Thank you, governor, and on behalf of all the hospitals in Illinois I’d like to thank you and Dr. Ezike for your tremendous leadership throughout this pandemic. You are correct. Hospital healthcare workers are weary. The pandemic has taken its toll on our community and on our healthcare workers. And it’s not only the bedside healthcare workers, but that we have housekeepers, and nutrition services workers, and we have building services workers, everybody who makes sure that this place operates-
Ruth Colby: (22:03)
-everybody who makes sure that this place operates the way that it does to serve our community. Today, we have over 60 individuals that are not able to come to work because of contacting COVID in the community. I’ll agree with Dr. [inaudible 00:00:22]. The hospital is safe. We have PPE. We have visitor restrictions. We have all kinds of protocols in place. So please do not delay medical care. But what we’re seeing is our staff contracting and being exposed to the disease in small community gatherings or in places that people are not wearing masks, and this makes it more and more difficult for us to take care of people in Region 7. Our positivity rate out here has exceeded 18%, and we have not seen a drop in it for several, several days.
Ruth Colby: (22:56)
We continue to do surgeries. We manage very, very carefully the schedule moving forward to make sure that we have enough beds. Our surge plan is in place so that we are able to use any resource within the hospital that we can accept patients. Our emergency room has been extremely full, night after night. So I think my message is that every time someone in the community does not wear a mask or observe the other safety precautions you’ve outlined, that creates the potential for a healthcare worker to contract COVID. We’re urging everyone in the community to please, please help us stem the growth of this disease, especially over the holidays. Thank you, Governor. I’ll pass it back to you for questions from the [inaudible 00:01:44].
Governor Pritzker: (23:47)
Great. Thank you very much, Ruth, and thank you for the work that you’re doing on behalf of all of us at Silver Cross Hospital. With that, I’d be happy to take questions from members of the media.
What indication do you have that people are heeding last week’s advice to stay home as much as possible?
Governor Pritzker: (24:04)
That people are?
Governor Pritzker: (24:06)
Yeah, that people are. Well, I’m not taking surveys, if that’s what you’re asking. I mean, we’re encouraging everybody to follow the mitigations. So right now, I’m taking some glimmer of hope in the idea that the cases that we’ve seen have seemed to flatten for a few days. It’s not determinative. We look at everything on a one-week, seven-day rolling average. But I’m always looking for some hope here. So I would hope that people who are following it are the responsible parties for keeping the numbers where they are. Having said that, we know that over the weekends, sometimes we see a moderation of cases, and then you come to Tuesday, really, and you start to see the numbers spike. So I’m concerned.
Have you reached out to the out-of-state nurses that were here the first time around to see if they can come back? [inaudible 00:25:07] do we need them now?
Governor Pritzker: (25:10)
Well, I want to be clear. We don’t reach out to them, right? What we do is make those lists of staff available to all the hospitals. Then we encourage them to use them as they need to to contact them. What the hospitals are hearing, though, is what I was repeating to you, which is that because Wisconsin is in such bad shape, because Iowa is in such bad shape, because Missouri is in such bad shape in their hospitals that they’ve been hiring those people, as they’ve been worse than we are. So it’s hard to get those people. Some of them live in those states or they live in other surrounding states, and they’ve decided to go to those states where they can get work, and we haven’t needed them up until now. So we have certainly available some retired personnel who have volunteered themselves to come back in. We’ve allowed them to be relicensed to come back into the healthcare industry, but we’re competing, as always, with the other states, particularly now.
Could you give us any more insight into the vaccine rollout? Last week, the governor of Indiana mentioned there are five hospitals in Indiana that are part of a pilot. Do we know what hospitals are part of a pilot here in Illinois?
Governor Pritzker: (26:23)
So let me just back up a second and explain that because there will be multiple vaccines, each vaccine will likely be using the word piloted at a number of hospitals. It depends upon, for example, the cold storage Pfizer vaccine. By the way, we’re all assuming that they’re all going to pass the next phase, which I’m very hopeful of. But assuming they do, only certain hospitals can really manage the 95 below zero vaccine, and others, less capable of doing that. So that’s kind of how the decisions will be made.
Governor Pritzker: (27:02)
But the answer is no, the specific hospitals have not been decided on, although I was just on a call. It was a White House call of the COVID task force led by the Vice President, and they had a number of people on it, talking about the federal government’s engagement in this cold chain and what will be required there and the federal dollars that will be provided for distribution of the vaccine, as well as the vaccine being free. Although the vaccine itself will be free, it’ll be the administration of it that will fall to Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance.
Governor, [inaudible 00:05:45].
Governor Pritzker: (27:43)
This [inaudible 00:27:45] a question more for doctors, [inaudible 00:05:47], but in Regions 1 and 7, where we are getting to those dangerously low levels of ICU beds and surge beds, what happens once there are no more beds available? The current problem is more staffing, but from a patient perspective, are we talking about patients having to be transferred further away from home for treatment? What are the biggest concerns in terms of folks getting access close to home right now?
Governor Pritzker: (28:15)
Well, there are various phases of this that will happen if a hospital literally gets full. But let’s start with where we are now. An ICU bed, the definition of an ICU bed is essentially do you have ICU staff available, and do you have the equipment that normally accompanies an ICU bed? It doesn’t mean that there’s six ICU beds in a hallway of a hospital in one section of a hospital, and then that’s it. You could in theory, and we looked at this back last spring, take a regular hospital room and convert it into an ICU bed with staffing and equipment. Some hospitals don’t have excess staffing and equipment, and that’s why we’re talking so much about staffing here, in which case, if there is no … Typically, it’ll be the new hospitalizations, the new patients at a hospital who might be diverted to another hospital that might be further away. It sort of depends on their condition, right? You wouldn’t send somebody out of an emergency room that’s having trouble breathing and send them many miles away, but someone who might be stable and is doing okay, but still needs hospitalization, you might try to send that person to another hospital so that you can treat somebody who’s incoming at the emergency room.
Governor Pritzker: (29:43)
But we have a lot of options available, to the point where what we don’t want to get to, which is what I’m really pleading with people about and what I think these hospital professionals are pleading with people about, which is we do not want to get to a point where our hospitals are literally over full, and then you will have somebody come and they just don’t have personnel or a bed to treat them.
Are we at that point yet of looking to reopen some field hospitals?
Governor Pritzker: (30:12)
As I’ve told you before, we have an alternate care site that we’ve kept sort of warm, available. Again, those would not be for emergency-type situations, but rather for people who are more on the other side of this, still need hospital care, but they’re improving and so less acute. we would move those people from one hospital to another in order to make room at the original hospital.
Governor, do you plan to participate in the Thursday meeting of the IHSA that will be meeting about the winter sports, basketball and other sport activities? Will you be there personally?
Governor Pritzker: (30:50)
Will IDPH be there? What’s your plan for that meeting?
Governor Pritzker: (30:54)
No, I think that there’s been a lot of interaction between IHSA and our staff, as well as IDPH. So we’ll certainly make available our staff for consultation and so on, but I think we’ve all been pretty clear about where we are with regard to winter sports.
That is a no-go?
Governor Pritzker: (31:16)
Yeah, it’s what we issued. Again, we relied upon the best experts we could to come up with a plan for the winter. By the way, since then, COVID has gotten a lot worse.
[crosstalk 00:31:27] know what kind of tax-
Governor Pritzker: (31:28)
I couldn’t hear. I’m sorry.
Can you expand on the tax adjustments or loopholes that you might change or that businesses might have to prepare for?
Governor Pritzker: (31:36)
With regard to the budget?
Governor Pritzker: (31:39)
Yeah, the answer is no. I’m in conversations with the leaders, as you know. There’s a lot on the table. We’ve got to look at cuts first, and we’re all looking at that. I think those cuts will be somewhat painful. Then we’ll consider all the other options about what we need to do in order to get to balance for FY21 and moving forward.
We’ll do one more in the room, and then we’ve got to go online.
Could you give us [crosstalk 00:32:10]?
[inaudible 00:00:32:11]. Both of you.
Governor Pritzker: (32:14)
A lot of people are asking, if you could both respond, please, what are you doing differently for Thanksgiving this year that you didn’t do … I mean, how will your Thanksgiving-
Governor Pritzker: (32:25)
Oh, I have often had friends, many friends who don’t live … whose families, rather, are not in Illinois and who can’t go to their families and therefore would otherwise be by themselves. We’ve had those families over to join our Thanksgiving. That’s been the history of our Thanksgivings for MK and me, but that’s not something we’re doing this year, as you can imagine. We’re encouraging people to stay at home, have their own. If we can, we’ll do Zoom Thanksgiving with people. But most importantly, I think keeping in your own pod of close family.
Governor Pritzker: (33:03)
Keeping in your own pod of close family, that’s the best thing you could do. You’re not bringing COVID in. These are people that you’ve been with every day. It’s much, much safer.
Speaker 2: (33:10)
All right, and [inaudible 00:33:11] since you live in Chicago, I mean, are you going to follow the no travel advisory that Mayor Lightfoot put into place at 6:00 AM this morning?
Governor Pritzker: (33:17)
Yeah, I don’t know what that says exactly, and I don’t know exactly what my plans will be, but I’ll certainly be happy to share.
Speaker 2: (33:25)
Second City Blog said that your family is already in Florida, and all [inaudible 00:00:30].
Governor Pritzker: (33:28)
Well, I think you already know that we have a place in Florida. So, yeah.
Speaker 1: (33:34)
Yeah, and we’re not going to address rumors from random blogs online. So, [crosstalk 00:33:39]. We’re going online.
Speaker 2: (33:40)
You must know what the mayor’s plan is. I mean-
Governor Pritzker: (33:43)
I actually have not seen what the mayor put out this morning. I’ve been very busy as you can imagine.
Speaker 2: (33:47)
It was put out last week. I mean, it was put out last week.
Governor Pritzker: (33:50)
Mm-hmm (affirmative), well I know there was something new this morning, I heard. Actually, I don’t think there was a travel ban, but I think there was a discouragement.
Speaker 2: (33:55)
Will you’ll be an Illinois for Thanksgiving?
Governor Pritzker: (33:58)
That is my hope, but I will let you know.
Speaker 1: (34:01)
Okay, everyone we’re going on online. Mark Maxwell has a question. What was your reaction to your budget office’s projection that the backlog of unpaid bills could reach $33.2 billion over the next five years? And why would anyone want to do business in Illinois if they can’t get paid?
Governor Pritzker: (34:19)
Well, I think what he’s referring to is the five-year plan that was put out. Not plan, it’s a five-year estimate for Illinois. Let me be clear, there are not solutions to the budget problem that are built into that. That was a definition of what the budget problem is if we go without any solutions, but I’ve been very clear since right after the election that we’re going to have to make a lot of changes in our budget. And I’ve been working since then to get that done.
Speaker 1: (34:46)
John O’Connor at the AP, what are your top needs for COVID relief from the feds, just money for the budget? What will the State’s compact strategy be to get the feds to come to the table? And what did you tell VP Pence today? There’s a lot of questions.
Governor Pritzker: (34:58)
I’m sorry, what was the compact …
Speaker 1: (35:00)
Yeah, the compact of Midwest states he’s talking about.
Governor Pritzker: (35:03)
Speaker 1: (35:03)
Will that be part of your plan to get the feds to bring money? And what are your top asks from the feds?
Governor Pritzker: (35:11)
Well, there are a lot of questions there. Let me begin by saying that, look, we’re fighting COVID. I think that is the number one thing that we can do right now is fight COVID. So, every resource that we can for testing, for tracing, for dealing with hospital personnel, I would like a national strategy faster than probably one will happen. I’m hoping January 20th one will be forthcoming from the new administration. I’m sure that it will be actually. So that is something I’m looking for from the federal government, probably the most important thing.
Governor Pritzker: (35:46)
Certainly support for local governments across Illinois, as well as state government, not to mention every state in the United States and every city really is suffering from a failure of revenues because of COVID-19. The federal government is really the only resource that we all have to turn to. And, since they’ve helped big corporations along the way, and I think we all believe that we want to save both jobs and the services that we’re all providing for the public, that would be the second thing and very important. And yes, I have been in contact with the federal congressional leaders, not just in Illinois, but but the Speaker of the House, and the Senate minority leader, as well as a few others to encourage moving forward as quickly as possible with a stimulus plan that would include local and state governments.
Speaker 1: (36:46)
Kenna at NPR, Governor, are you open to expanding the sales tax base? What services would you identify for a possible service tax?
Governor Pritzker: (36:55)
All I can say is we are starting here with cuts. That is really the way that we need to start. We’ll start to talk about other things when we get there, but right now, it is very important that there’s some agreement across the board. And right now, there isn’t necessarily agreement across the board, but we’re trying to work on that with the leaders and other budgeteers.
Speaker 1: (37:20)
Matt Roy at WICS, the IFT is calling on ISBI and you to close all school buildings and have all schooling be remote for the foreseeable future due to the COVID surge. Is this something you will consider? What is your response?
Governor Pritzker: (37:33)
We’re always thinking about our school children, and the parents, and the teachers. And it’s right now, not something that we’re doing. But I will say that what we’ve made sure is to set parameters that are safe for schools. We need schools to follow those parameters, most are. I think we’ve got more than 60% of school children in Illinois who are currently remote learning, and about 30-some percent that are doing some form of hybrid learning in school and out. And it’s not ideal by any means, but we have a COVID storm that’s hitting. And I think the school districts are doing the best they can.
Speaker 1: (38:19)
Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times. Did you attend Pence’s video conference for governors today? If so, what happened during that meeting?
Governor Pritzker: (38:25)
I did attend. I didn’t attend on video, but it was on the phone, and there’s an awful lot that was said in that meeting. It was mostly about the vaccines and the ways in which the federal government tends to try to get those vaccines distributed to the states. There wasn’t really a lot new, in my opinion. Although, it’s always good to hear from the head of the CDC, who was on that call. Dr. Fauci was on the call. There were others, who were just giving their department’s perspectives, how this will all work.
Speaker 1: (39:01)
Kelly Bauer at Block Club, demand for testing is far out pacing supply, and people are having to wait days, if not weeks, to try and get a test. Is there anything the State can do or is doing to get more testing to Chicago?
Governor Pritzker: (39:13)
Well, aren’t you glad that we built up our testing capability? Because we’re third in the nation and providing tests, and one of the best on a per capita basis. And it’s true that when the COVID storm has hit, and more and more people are concerned about getting COVID-19, they’re going to get a test. I’m glad that people are going out to get a test. I think that’s a good thing to do. And I’m glad that we have so much capability.
Governor Pritzker: (39:38)
Where we have heard of longer lines or areas that don’t have enough testing, we’ve tried to move our mobile capability into those neighborhoods, for example, on the Southwest side of Chicago. But I also want to remind you that the City of Chicago really has most of the control of providing tests within the city. We augment that wherever necessary. And then of course the rest of the state, for the most part, although cities are involved, the state is significantly involved in developing those sites. And the State has its own drive-through sites that are absolutely free, that are all across the state.
Speaker 1: (40:19)
Jim Haggerty of Rockford Advocate, because the virus is now spreading exponentially, can Illinois expect to see another wave of COVID that lasts well into the winter, and possibly spring of next year?
Governor Pritzker: (40:29)
Are you actually asking how long will this last?
Speaker 1: (40:32)
That’s the jist of it.
Governor Pritzker: (40:35)
Essentially, I don’t know. I mean, I really wish I could tell you. I don’t know. I can tell you that nobody that I’ve talked to thinks that this is ending in the next four to six weeks. I mean, this is going to be a very rough … I think Dr. Ezike said it best, “It’s going to be a rocky next few months.” There will be people who don’t go get their flu shot, and please go get your flu shot. But people who do that, and they end up in the hospital, and they’re going to be a lot of people who don’t follow the mitigations, which is awful. And please follow the mitigations. Please wear a mask for everybody’s sake. And we’ll try to limit the damage that this COVID storm is causing.
Speaker 1: (41:14)
Marty Pike at the Daily Herald will be our last question. Where is the alternate hospital site reference that could take overflow?
Governor Pritzker: (41:20)
Speaker 1: (41:22)
Governor Pritzker: (41:22)