Mar 24, 2020
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing March 24
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker provided a press briefing on March 24 for COVID-19 in the state. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
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J. B. Pritzker: (00:11)
Well, hello everyone and thank you all for joining us again this afternoon. Today, in addition to our IDPH Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, I’m here with our Illinois National Guard Director of Brigadier General Richard R. Neely. And Dr. Omar Lateef, the CEO of Rush University Medical Center. During yesterday’s public update, we focused on personal protective equipment or PPE. Illinois’ hospitals, and nursing homes, and first responders source and stock their own PPE, as does the city of Chicago due to its size. The State backs up all of these institutions including the city and the entire State in times of surge, which is why we’re doing everything in our power to acquire massive sums of PPE from across the global supply chain to Illinois. PPE is only one part, although a critical part of our multifaceted approach to tackling COVID-19. And today, I want to talk to you about some of the important pieces of the puzzle that we’ve been working on and I want to provide you with some of the data that’s guiding my decision making. First, let’s talk about testing capacity.
J. B. Pritzker: (01:32)
Testing is important, not only for an individual and their doctor so they can know how best to treat the symptoms that a patient is feeling, but also so that we as a State can understand the scale and severity of the outbreak across Illinois. There are Illinois counties with higher concentrations of COVID cases than others, and we also have counties with only a few documented positives where none of their surrounding counties have any positive cases. Testing helps demonstrate the actual reach of COVID-19 and informs us how we can potentially isolate the outbreak even as we work to flatten the curve. In the words of the Director General of the World Health Organization, “You cannot fight the fire blindfolded.” We cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who’s infected. Test. Test. Test. In February, we were among the first States to bring our own State laboratories online, providing us with critical early capacity. At the time, we were able to run around 50 tests per day. Today, we can do nearly 2,000 tests per day from all sources with our State labs now running 600 tests per day in all three locations, Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale.
J. B. Pritzker: (03:02)
A lot of work has gone up into building up our testing capacity and there’s still a lot more work to be done. On Sunday and Monday we began drive-thru testing at four State and federal facilities. The Illinois National Guard opened our first entirely State-run drive-thru testing facility in Northwest Chicago, the Harwood Heights community based testing site. This site is designed especially to collect specimens from our healthcare workers and first responders, and at current capacity they can collect 250 specimens per day. Senior members of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were out to survey that site this last weekend and they called our set up a national model that they hope to replicate in other States.
J. B. Pritzker: (03:56)
I want to commend Brigadier General Rich Neely, our National Guard soldiers, and our teams at CMS, DPH and IEMA for their exceptional work bringing this site online. Over the last few days, federal HHS has also set up sites in Bolingbrook, North Lake and Joliet with private partners, Walgreens and Walmart. These sites can run close to 100 tests per day as is, an up to 250 each with expanded staffing. Here in Illinois, our residents also have access to four commercial labs and 15 hospital labs that in total average about 1,500 tests per day on top of our state lab output. That’s of course on top of the 600 per day that we run at our state labs. IDPH is working with some hospitals to stand up their own new labs, providing positive specimens to hospitals for validation so that they can come online faster. As we speak, labs at places like North Shore Hospital and Southern Illinois University are expanding their capacity with additional equipment and supplies with an expected additional capacity of 2,805 daily tests in two weeks. That will bring our in-State testing to more than 4,300 per day.
J. B. Pritzker: (05:24)
Now, even with this rapid expansion, we still need tens of thousands more tests to get an accurate picture of our State. That’s within our reach, though standing up additional hospital lab sites will be required and mobile testing sites will be required across the State, and we’re doing that. And with the continued consistent delivery of necessary supplies such as reagent and viral transport media, we can get this job done. Of course nationally and here in Illinois, we are beyond the moment where testing alone can be our primary weapon against this virus. We can’t just test, we have to treat. It’s true that the vast majority of people will recover from COVID-19 on their own without hospitalization and without a specific therapy, but what we need to do is to ensure that our healthcare system can fully support and care for those who won’t easily recover. One aspect of that is our healthcare workforce, those on the front lines fighting COVID-19 every day.
J. B. Pritzker: (06:33)
I’m very proud to say that since my call to action this weekend for those qualified to join the fight, we have had hundreds of nurses and doctors and other healthcare workers reach out to us and let us know that they are interested in helping. The application went live yesterday, and in just 24 hours we’ve already received 180 applications from individuals ready and willing to rejoin the healthcare workforce. I encourage anybody who’s interested to go to our coronavirus.illinois.gov website and you’ll be able to access the necessary forms for IDFPR to join our healthcare workforce. Another piece of this puzzle is our hospital infrastructure. Right now in Illinois, we have about 26,000 non ICU beds of which nearly 13,000 are currently available. We have nearly 2,600 adult ICU beds across the State, of which about 1,100 are currently available. Those numbers are fairly standard, but we know that they will not stay that way. I want to take a moment now to provide you with a fuller picture of what we could be dealing with in the near future.
J. B. Pritzker: (07:55)
As I’ve said, you deserve honesty and transparency on the gravity of our situation, and the reasoning behind the aggressive measures like the stay at home order that I’ve put in place. In our worst case scenario projections, that is without the stay at home order, in one week we would need over 2,500 more non ICU beds and 800 ICU beds than we have in existence in the entire State today. Further still, in two weeks we would need over 28,000 additional non ICU beds and over 9,400 additional ICU beds. That’s untenable. The board next to me offers a moment in time snapshot of our current capacity and how these projections would stand up. As you can see, what we’ve seen in other countries of COVID-19’s ability to overwhelm the system could happen here too. We are not immune. But again, those are worst case scenario projections with no interventions. Instead, what we’ve done already in Illinois is put in place a two-pronged approach to make sure a worst case scenario does not become our reality. First, we’ve put in place protective measures to suppress the spread of COVID-19.
J. B. Pritzker: (09:23)
That’s our stay at home order, limits on gatherings, closing our schools, closing restaurants and bars, and social distancing guidelines. These are the steps that we’ve taken over the past two weeks to flatten the curve and prevent too rapid an increase in new cases. Second, we’re working to increase our healthcare capacity overall Statewide so that when we do arrive at our next phase, we will have the capacity to meet that much greater need. IEMA and DPH have taken a multifaceted approach to increasing capacity, building up our triage units at hospitals, bringing offline hospitals and hotels online, and expanding capacity in existing hospitals by acquiring critical equipment like ventilators to care for the most severe cases of COVID-19. IEMA has deployed 49 triaged tents, 40 outside of Cook County to set up triage units outside of hospitals to safely and efficiently evaluate potential COVID-19 patients. In total, 66 of our over 200 hospitals Statewide have set up triage tents with IEMA or on their own.
J. B. Pritzker: (10:44)
IEMA is currently working with 26 additional hospitals to set up triage centers, and my team and I will make sure that each and every one of those hospitals has what they need to get a triage center going. Rush University Medical Center has been a true leader in this work, and Rush CEO, Dr. Lateef, will talk more about this approach in just a few moments. IDPH, IEMA, the Illinois National Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in the process of investigating closed hospitals that could temporarily reopen to support our COVID-19 response. In a worst case scenario surge, the State would turn existing hospitals into almost entirely COVID-19 response hospitals moving non-COVID patients to other hospitals including these re outfitted locations. The number one difference between a standard bed and a COVID equipped bed is a ventilator. Right now in Illinois, we have about 2,200 ventilators all across the State, of which 1,600 are currently available. In the worst case scenario projections that I discussed earlier, we would need over 4,100 more ventilators to outfit our ICU beds within two weeks. Again, that’s a projection based on no protective interventions.
J. B. Pritzker: (12:13)
My team and I are pursuing every option to increase our State supply of ventilators, including working with scientists and experts in Illinois and beyond to pursue innovative new equipment options. Yesterday, I spoke with President Trump to walk him through Illinois immediate needs, millions of N95 masks and hundreds of ventilators just in the near term. President Trump promised assistance and yesterday afternoon the White House notified us that we will be receiving 300 more ventilators and 300,095 N95 masks from FEMA in the coming days. On that call, I also urged the President to invoke the Defense Production Act. I know I sound like a broken record, but if I have to stand here every single day until I’m blue in the face and advocate that the federal government fully utilize this act, then I will. This is the reality, there is a finite supply of critical resources available around the world right now. There is an enormous supply of governors and countries trying to get those resources. We need the full might of the federal government to obtain and allocate things like ventilators and PPE.
J. B. Pritzker: (13:33)
I know there are businesses out there right now working on turning production toward these critical needs, and I’ve been vocal about how grateful I am to the manufacturing community for the most part, which is stepping up to try and help. But there is no way that these companies can ramp up fast enough to get us everything that we need in the time that we need it. Illinois had some of the earliest COVID-19 cases and we were among the States with the highest number of positive cases-
J. B. Pritzker: (14:03)
And we were among the states with the highest number of positive cases and we are still right now. We need to be a priority when it comes to ventilators and N95 masks, especially. Of all the reasons that the federal government exists, this is the most important and the most basic. We are on a wartime footing right now and we need an allocation of resources to the front lines that prioritizes where the battle is being waged most aggressively. I will continue to pound the table to get the federal government to acquire the supplies that our states so critically need and to allocate them accordingly. Lives depend upon it.
J. B. Pritzker: (14:43)
The question that everyone wants answered right now is how long is all of this going to last? The honest answer is we don’t yet know. I know that’s hard to accept, but it’s honest and I’m determined to be honest with you above all else. The battle against this virus is a daily struggle and our best minds and our bravest souls are suited up against it. I have tremendous faith in their ability to conquer it, but we have to give them the time and the space to do what they need to do.
J. B. Pritzker: (15:17)
I want to be 100% clear about what will drive my decision-making in the weeks ahead. Science. I understand how difficult it is to see the economy slow down and watch friends and neighbors laid off from jobs. Those concerns keep me up at night, too. But I will say again, you can’t have a livelihood without a life. As long as Americans still have breath in their lungs, we will find a way to survive and thrive. We can revive our economy. We can’t revive the people that are lost to this virus.
J. B. Pritzker: (15:53)
Finally, there has been some talk over the last 24 hours by some about who this nation might be willing to sacrifice to COVID-19 for the sake of our economic interests. Well, in case there’s any doubt in your minds, I’m not willing to sacrifice anyone. There is no life in this state that is more or less precious than any other, no person more or less worthy of saving. I want grandparents around to help raise their grandchildren. I want people to spend years after this is over celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries and healthy retirements. I want Illinois to continue to be enriched by its young and old residents alike. Our economic strength comes from our diversity in this state and the hard won experiences of our citizens. Without that we are nothing. With it, there is nothing that we cannot overcome. With that, I’d like to invite Dr. Ezike, our Director of our Department of Public Health to give you an update. Doctor.
Dr. Ezike: (17:06)
Thank you Governor Pritzker. And thank you for just affirming the value of each resident of Illinois. So we’re all standing here trying to be physically distant, trying to model the right behavior and we’re showing our support for the great leadership offered by Governor Pritzker. The members represented here and the people that you’ve seen at these daily press conferences demonstrate the interconnectedness of all the different sectors of our community. It takes all of us to counter this pandemic.
Dr. Ezike: (17:41)
The report for today is sobering as it is every day. There are 250 additional cases and there are four additional deaths. For Illinois, this brings our total of COVID-19 cases to 1,535 and unfortunately 16 total deaths. It is not easy to be reporting these numbers every day. And we won’t fall into the trap of forgetting that these are people with families and friends who love them and people who are worried about them. And for those who have passed on, their loved ones are now grieving and don’t have the opportunity to celebrate their lives with traditional funerals and wakes. Let’s send our thoughts, our support and our prayers to all of these families and their friends.
Dr. Ezike: (18:36)
This disease has affected every group in our society. It has affected people from ages zero to 99. In terms of the data that we’ve collected, 54% of confirmed cases are white, 33% are black, 5% are categorized as Asian. We have 11% of Latino or Hispanic ethnicity. In terms of severity of illness, our data shows that 16% of COVID cases have resulted in hospitalization, 4% have resulted in ICU admission. Of the lives lost, we see that 92% of those lives lost were in those older than 60. So we see these sobering numbers and we thank our governor for the aggressive steps that he has taken to try to reduce these stats.
Dr. Ezike: (19:41)
He’s talking about all that is being done to increase hospital capacity so that we can care for all those that are suffering the most serious illness and eventually decrease the overall number of deaths. Since January, the Illinois Department of Public Health has been working closely with hospitals in response to this pandemic, providing guidance on infection control, diagnosis, and leading the country as the first public health lab to be testing in state.
Dr. Ezike: (20:10)
As the situation has evolved, we began holding weekly webinars with hospitals to provide the most up to date information and guidance, but also to hear what hospitals were seeing and what they needed. As information changed and we learned more about this novel coronavirus, we worked with hospitals on guidance for how to safely interact with patients who may be infected and when healthcare workers and staff should stay home. Just yesterday we had issued additional guidance about screening protocols and triaging patients. Our hospital partners are invaluable and we must ensure that they have the information as well as the resources that they need. This virus is causing hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations across the globe and thousands of deaths, and we need everyone to understand how severe the situation can be. Let’s keep doing our part to help end this pandemic. Continue to stay home, keep washing your hands, stay away from hospitals and nursing homes. Let’s do everything we can and prevent as many deaths as possible. Now, I’ll summarize my comments in Spanish.
Dr. Ezike: (21:24)
[foreign language 00:00:21:25]. And with that I would like to turn it over to Brigadier General, Richard Neely.
Richard Neely: (23:30)
Good afternoon. Thank you, Governor Pritzker for inviting me here today. Thank you for your incredible leadership during this extraordinary time. Really unprecedented times here in the state of Illinois. I know you’ve had some very challenging decisions to make along the way and have made them. So thank you again for your leadership, sir.
Richard Neely: (23:53)
The Illinois National Guard is extremely proud to be part of the team combating the spread of COVID-19. And it’s my honor to work closely with so many professionals across the state, the local communities, and at the federal agencies. Of course, starting with my longterm friend, Alicia Tate-Nadeau, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, as well as Dr. Ezike for the Illinois Department of Public Health, each of whom have shown extraordinary professionalism and strength while addressing this unprecedented threat to public health. As the commander of the Illinois National Guard and the adjutant general, I’m very proud of what the national guard brings to the state. As I like to say, the National Guard is truly an American treasure as we have two jobs, one for the Department of Defense and one to support the state as well as our communities that we live in. As a reserve for the United States Air Force and the United States Army, the National Guard is extremely capable organization that’s able to fight America’s war but also support our communities, states when the governor calls. There is no other organization like it.
Richard Neely: (25:21)
In times like today when the National Guard is activated, we tend to get a lot of attention. Men and women and uniforms like I’m wearing today, camouflage, large vehicles rolling down the street draws a lot of attention. As citizen soldiers and airmen are called to duty, people that are your neighbors, your loved ones, your coworkers that live in your community, when they’re activated, you hear about it. And they have been for COVID-19.
Richard Neely: (25:54)
As we discussed yesterday and the governor’s discussed several times at this podium in the last few days, the National Guard has been the subject of recent rumors that we were performing some type of policing action to enforce a quarantine. Well, let me repeat again today that the Illinois National Guard is not bringing weapons and not enforcing quarantines. What we are doing is bringing approximately 115 personnel of the medical profession, as the governor spoke of earlier, to support things like drive through testing. We have physician assistants, doctors, nurses, as well as logistics support folks that are out there on the front line helping are first responders doing testing in our communities. We’re looking at possible expansion once additional facilities have been identified by Illinois Department of Public Health as well as the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Richard Neely: (26:54)
We’ve also had a team that supported the expansion of possible hospitals, a team of individuals with engineering background with special needs like electricians and plumbers and HVAC specialists, structural engineers that went around and looked at recently shuttered hospitals that could be reopened as the governor referred to earlier, as well as assessing possible hotels for expansion.
Richard Neely: (27:21)
Additionally, we are working closely with the Illinois Emergency Management as well as the Illinois Department of Public Health to support the distribution of the personal protective equipment, the PPE that we’ve discussed so many times. As the governor discussed yesterday, there is a lot of large shipment arriving this week and so the Illinois National Guard is getting in position to support the other agencies to ensure the logistics for the delivery of this important PPE out to our first responders. There’ll be repackaging and helping with the shipment as well as working with Illinois department of transportation. Our team is…
Richard Neely: (28:03)
… working with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Our team is continually growing daily as we look for ways that we can continue to support the hospitals and the first responders who are really on the front lines of this response. We’re here to support them. And today, not only do we have approximately 200 Illinois guardsmen and women engaged in this fight, we also have about 1200 members deployed around the world defending our nation. As a part time force, we are very busy. I’m so proud of the 13,000 dedicated men and women of the Illinois National Guard and proud of their willingness to protect communities, our state and our nation. I’ll be followed by Dr. Latif.
Dr. Latif: (28:53)
Thank you. This has been an incredible period in our history as a nation, state, city, and hospital community. I want to thank Governor Pritzker for his leadership and his willingness to take and make medical and tough decisions. I want to thank the leadership of the City of Chicago for pulling people together to break down silos so that we can work as a city, the best city, to face the challenges that we are facing. Chicago is a strong city and all our hospitals are made up of amazing people and they are working 24/7, around the clock as long as it takes to help our community get through this. It has been three weeks since we formed a command center at our institution.
Dr. Latif: (29:36)
Based on the recommendations of infectious disease experts from all over the world, we must learn from the experiences in other nations and cities so that we don’t overwhelm our system and people that should not die, die because they don’t have the resources that they need. There is no room for arrogance and hubris in healthcare, only humility to be taught from lessons learned from some great European cities. Like all of you, we hope that the intense mitigation and containment strategies are effective in decreasing the spread of this disease. Now is not the time to abandon the only measures we know will help protect us. These are to wash your hands, to shelter in place and to practice social distancing. We are in a city where COVID-19 is actively spreading through our neighborhoods today. But even as we hope these measures will bend the curve of infection, a curve that by now you are all tired of looking at, Rush and our partners in healthcare in our community must be ready for a major surge of COVID-19. Chicago hospitals are coming together to take the lessons learned in both Seattle and New York to provide the best care we possibly can with whatever resources we have.
Dr. Latif: (30:49)
We have spoken to iconic doctors and hospitals that are overwhelmed, and listened carefully to what is happening so that we can be as prepared as we can possibly be. We all need materials to keep this going and protect our public and our staff. Three limitations currently will exist in our ability to serve this community. Beds. As the governor’s mentioned and many conferences have shown, the need for beds in our city. Supplies. We can have beds, but without personal protective equipment it will be nearly impossible to take care of patients. Same with the ventilators that we desperately need. And staff. We have seen with this infection staff getting sick themselves. An entire workforce is being cut in half in a two or one day period. We have physically transformed our hospital to address these needs. We’ve expanded our emergency department. We’ve transformed entire units into COVID hospitals, like mini units that are designed to take care of patients specifically with this disease.
Dr. Latif: (31:51)
We’ve converted space that was never designed to take care of patients to hospital beds by putting up dividers. We’ve reassigned staff and pulled all hands on deck. We’re taking advantage of anyone who reaches out to us that wants to help. We’re using telemedicine appointments so patients can get the care they need without leaving their home. This includes hundreds of free video visits to those concerned they may have Coronavirus with instructions on staying at home or when to come in for testing. We’ve stopped elective surgeries before any mandate to prepare and save all the supplies that we have and to prepare our providers and give them time to get ready for this surge. And we did all of this to create greater capacity to care for critical patients who just about every international expert believes are coming. We believe it’s coming and as we prepare it as we possibly can, we still have limitations.
Dr. Latif: (32:43)
Here’s the truth. In just about every scenario in the future, the situation gets worse before it gets better for our city and for our community. So, no matter how well we have prepared, we and all healthcare providers need help from our private and public partners to weather through this. To keep up the fight against this disease on our front lines, we need the supplies that we need. So, we would ask for continued support of our state and local government, which have been incredible partners. With the commitment of the state and federal government as well as private insurers and payers, Chicago will have the resources to continue this fight and I firmly believe we will win. Medicine is a calling and all those in healthcare have a mission to take care of everyone and everyone who gets up and works in healthcare in every hospital in this city is facing this outbreak, are heroes.
Dr. Latif: (33:36)
I am honored to work alongside with them every day. I think I can speak for everyone in healthcare right now when I say that we know people are depending on us. As you are depending on us, we are depending on you. We are depending on you to remain in place, to shelter in place, we are depending on you to maintain a social distance and we are mostly depending on you to wash your hands. Thank you Mr governor for your leadership. We firmly believe in health care, history will look back on these moments and recognize the sacrifices we made for the health of our population, of our community, of our entire city and our state. I now would like to welcome governor back up to take questions.
J. B. Pritzker: (34:23)
Thank you, Dr Latif. Thank you and just before I take questions, I just want to make sure everybody knows how hard we’re working all across the state. We have 211 hospitals and we have health centers. We have so many facilities that we’re working with directly outside of Cook County, outside of the collar counties, all the way down to the far southern reaches of our state. And we’re working hard to work with your county health administrators, your public health directors, to make sure that you have the PPE, that you have the protection that you need in every county and at every one of these healthcare centers. And I’ll continue to do that work. It’s vitally important to me that we protect everybody in the state. We’ve had a larger outbreak, as many of you know, in Cook County and Chicago than in other areas of the state.
J. B. Pritzker: (35:13)
But it is coming to every county. It’s been, now I think we’re in 26 counties. I think, so far that we had 30, sorry? 31 counties. We have 102 counties. Just two weeks ago or so, this was only in one or two counties. It is everywhere. No one is immune from this and that’s why it’s so important to me that we protect people all across the state and that people abide by this stay at home and make sure that they’re doing right by their neighbors and their friends. So, with that, I’m happy to take any questions from members of the media that are in the room and then we’ll take some questions from those who are online.
Speaker 1: (35:50)
Sounds like you’re considering hotels, it sounds like, as a potential additional hospital space. Are you looking at anything else? |It has been considered in some other States, convention centers, large scale venues such as that. And then also are you considering any mandate to medical facilities that X percent increase in capacity [inaudible 00:00:36:11]?
J. B. Pritzker: (36:12)
Well, we’re in discussion with every one of the facilities and we’ve got to work with them to see what works in their facilities. Dr Latif is here in part because he was one of the leaders in this very early on, Rush. And we began talking about how they were transforming already the facilities within Rush and their system to deal with COVID-19 and they’re one of the earliest to say we’re not going to take any elective surgeries and so on. We’re talking to every single hospital in the state to figure out, do they have their own triage capability? Do they need a tent and do they need some healthcare personnel to help with that triage of those who may have respiratory illnesses that need to be tested and defined so that we know whether they have COVID-19 or perhaps just have the flu or something else.
J. B. Pritzker: (36:59)
So, it’s got to be done hospital by hospital. We’re not mandating exactly, but every single one of these hospitals doesn’t need a mandate. They know that they’re going to get a rush of patients. They know that we need to prevent as much as possible people from showing up at the emergency room and when they do show up, that we keep them separate. People who have COVID-19 or any respiratory illness that might turn out to be COVID-19 from mixing in with those who may just be there because they have a heart problem or some other thing that will land them up in the hospital or in an emergency room. So, I’m very confident, I must say, that the healthcare professionals at these many institutions are doing the right things to build up capacity and of course we’re working right alongside them to make sure we maximize that.
Speaker 1: (37:46)
Other than hotels any other non-hospital venue you’re looking at that would be suitable?
Dr. Latif: (37:51)
And again, I would just point out about hotels. The question about hotels, and this is all across the state. You may have heard the mayor of the city of Chicago talking about hotel space in the city. We’re talking about the other 101 counties too and outside in Cook County outside of the city of Chicago. So, we’re not necessarily converting those hotel rooms into hospital rooms, though in some cases it’s possible to do. In many cases, we’re talking about situations where you may need to isolate somebody. Somebody may have COVID-19. Remember, many people will get COVID-19 and they don’t need hospitalization, but they do need to be separated from their families. They need somewhere to stay while they’re recovering and experiencing symptoms just as you might if you had the flu. But of course, the capacity for ICU beds and hospital beds, that’s what we’re watching very closely to make sure that we’re building up that capacity with [inaudible 00:38:46] centers or other places that might be able to take an overnight patient that isn’t currently doing that or as we say with hospitals that were closed and that could be reopened. And the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Guard and others are working together to see if we can do that. Yes, sir.
Speaker 2: (39:03)
All in all, there are many people in this town who they can see benefits from the state, like SNAP.
Dr. Latif: (39:09)
Speaker 2: (39:10)
When they run out of food, what does the state plan to do?
Dr. Latif: (39:15)
So, the question was about people who may have SNAP benefits and what happens if they run out of food and what will the state do? And the answer is we’re working very closely with our food depositories and pantries all across the state. There are people who are going to need to access those now more than ever and so, we’re doing our best to try to build up their capacity. We’ll be talking about that in the next few days and also making sure that for… Someone asked about whether we’re looking at other facilities, maybe large, auditorium type facilities. We are considering various housing options for people who are homeless because we want to make sure that we’re giving them shelter and protection from COVID-19 and so in those facilities, wherever those may end up being, we’re going to provide food and make sure that we’re giving them all the necessities of life.
Speaker 3: (40:15)
Governor, along the lines of the healthcare workers and the first responders. We’re hearing from a lot of these folks, everyday heroes, and they’re exhausted and working 14 hour shifts. Is there any way that perhaps the national guard, another kind of workforce, can come in and help supplement these people for a little while to get them that mental health break that they need?
Dr. Latif: (40:34)
You’re so right. Healthcare workers are being overworked. There’s no doubt about it. They’re doing heroic, amazing work every day and they do deserve a break as best we can give them. They’re so dedicated. They’re dedicated in non-crisis times, I must say, and now they’re working even harder. So, as you know, we expanded the eligibility to work in the healthcare field to people who had recently retired, who we can give them back their licenses nearly immediately. And those who may have left the profession for some other profession, we need them back. We’re encouraging them to come back and we’ve seen hundreds already talking to us about coming back, filling out forms and so on. And so, in that way, we’re trying to fill up the need for more healthcare workers so we can alleviate some of the work on the front lines. We’re also at the edges, at the borders of the state. We’re allowing people who may work as healthcare workers in other states, but may live in Illinois, or they may live on the other side of the border and may be willing to work in Illinois. We want to make sure they get licensed in Illinois. It’s a reciprocity for those folks.
Dr. Latif: (41:46)
We want to be able to move healthcare workers to where they’re most needed. So, we’re doing our best to try to alleviate the congestion, let’s say, that is weighing upon the healthcare industry, the healthcare workforce today, and we’ll keep looking for ways to do that.
Speaker 4: (42:01)
We’re going to take one more question.
Dr. Latif: (42:02)
Oh yeah, I’m sorry. The National Guard, you did ask-
J. B. Pritzker: (42:03)
For ways to do that.
Speaker 6: (42:03)
We’re going to take one more question before the break.
J. B. Pritzker: (42:03)
Oh yeah. I’m sorry. The National Guard, you did ask about the National Guard. They have many medical professionals that they’re bringing to bear here. Right now, we’ve got many of them focused on these drive through testing centers, but they are so versatile. They’re really tremendous. Maybe the General would like to speak to the tremendous individuals who are working in healthcare at the National Guard.
Speaker 5: (42:22)
Well and that’s a great question. You know, it’s a balancing act for us. So when the National Guard is called up, we’re actually coming out of the communities. So some of the doctors, some of the physicians that we’ve called forward to support the drive through are actually coming out to some of the hospitals. Some of them are coming out of medical school and some different areas like that. So it’s a balancing act for us.
Speaker 5: (42:44)
We are working very closely with these employers and I had great discussions with many of them this morning as they were standing up and operating and making sure that their employers were able to support. We can’t do our job as the National Guard without employer support. And we understand that some of these vital medical folks are being pulled out of some of the hospitals and that. So we’re trying to balance that and make sure that we’re not pulling too many and that we’re able to put that at the right balance. And what we have usually, when we start looking at things like hurricanes and that, they strike a portion of the country and sometimes we can go pull from another state, pull capability. This is like a hurricane hit all 50 states at once. And so now we’re really working on what we have within our borders as the Illinois National Guard in that capability. We’re working hard to make sure we’re balancing and we’re providing that support where we can bring in unique capabilities to support those frontline first responders.
Speaker 6: (43:49)
Craig, you’ll be the last question in the room.
J. B. Pritzker: (43:51)
The President said he would like to see the restrictions opened up by Easter to get the economy roaring. Your reaction to that and then I have a follow-up.
J. B. Pritzker: (44:05)
My concern with the President’s remarks is I don’t think he’s listening to the science. I think that he is operating, he’s looking at the stock market, which I know he essentially judges himself by and making decisions in that way. Look, I understand that what’s happening now is very, very difficult for families all across this nation. Everybody is suffering financially from this and some more than others. And so this is something that weighs on all of us and I think about how we can support people across the state of Illinois. And we’ve done many things like expanding unemployment benefits and providing meals for kids and making sure that we’re looking at shelter for those who are homeless. And of course we stopped evictions in the state and we put a moratorium on shutoffs of utilities and so on.
J. B. Pritzker: (45:09)
We’re doing many other things like that to protect people from the economic downturn that seems to be upon us. But I think the President is not taking into account the true damage that this will do to our country if we see truly millions of people die. And that’s what I think would happen. That’s what the scientists and the doctors tell us would happen. And you heard me say a little bit earlier, if you don’t have these restrictions on, the damage that would be done, the lives that would be lost, the overrunning of our healthcare system, would lead to real devastation. So I’m very, very concerned about what the President is saying.
As you’re looking ahead to your deadline of April 7th, are you, based on the numbers you’re seeing, do you think that is going to have to be continued further into April or May or June or whatever?
J. B. Pritzker: (46:02)
Yeah, again, I’m trying to follow the science here and I am concerned that we may have to extend that deadline. We have to start to see some movement in the numbers in the right direction or at least a shaping of the curve that looks like we’re hitting a good spot in that curve. It’s early. It’s early. I just can’t tell you anything quite yet. I’ve been told that it takes as as little as eight days certainly, but as many as 14 or perhaps more and you need to keep an eye on hospitalizations. That’s really because we have had such minimal testing really. You have to keep an eye on the hospitalization rate that tells you for sure how many people are really sick and what the direction of that hospitalization is. And so again, we haven’t seen enough data yet to really know when we can bring the restrictions off. But again, watching every day and looking at the data every day.
Speaker 6: (47:05)
Okay, we have to go to some of our reporters online.
J. B. Pritzker: (47:07)
Speaker 6: (47:08)
This question is for Dr. Ezike. While the governor says he does not know, so many are asking, when do you believe we will see a peak in Illinois? Can you give us some sort of time period, weeks or months? And also of the 16 people who have died, how many had underlying conditions?
Dr. Ezike: (47:29)
So I think in terms of the first question, in terms of actual prediction of timelines, I think it’s not wise for us to try to put timelines together. We have models that we are using, predicting at least in the near future, how we expect the cases to increase. And it’s that important information that we’re using to talk with our hospitals to figure out the surge capacity and what’s necessary. So part of it is dealing with the here and now and making sure we can look out one week, two weeks. Again, the measures that we institute now, the measures that have been instituted by the governor in terms of canceling of mass gatherings, school closures and these shelter at home. All of those are actually changing, hopefully, the trajectory. So what is predicted in the absence of those mitigation strategies is hopefully not what we’ll see at all. So every day the actual curve is actually changing. And so what would have been predicted maybe three weeks ago is not what we see now. I think there was a second part of about…
Speaker 6: (48:30)
How many of the 16 deaths had underlying conditions?
Dr. Ezike: (48:32)
Okay. So I know overall, and I don’t have the charts of the 16 people here, we can get that to them afterwards. But overall the trends have been that the fatalities have been in people over 60. All but one has been over 60. In terms of the actual medical conditions, we can try to look into that. Again, we’re trying not to get into too much of their personal protected health information. And we talked already about the ethnicity and was there another piece in there? Okay, thank you.
Speaker 6: (49:13)
This is for the governor. Your budget proposal for FY21 was based on an economic forecast that is clearly no longer accurate. What adjustments do you think will be necessary both for the remainder of FY20 and for FY21?
J. B. Pritzker: (49:26)
Well that is an excellent question. There is no doubt that any estimates that were made even two months ago would be not useful at this point. I don’t think anybody expected where we would be today. So we are working with our budget experts, with our Office of Management Budget, with my Deputy Governor for Budget and Economy and our entire team to try to figure out what’s the steepness of the downturn in revenues. And of course there are expenditures that we’re needing to make to save people’s lives, to protect people across the state. We’re going to do what we need to do. There’s no question about that. But yes, of course behind that we’ve got to look at our budget situation and do whatever we need to do to address it. And then we’ve got to also consult with the General Assembly on what we will do for next year’s budget.
Speaker 6: (50:24)
Is there any state budget maximum for spending on PPE and ventilators? I know the governor is reticent to give spending details due to negotiating purposes, but what is going into deciding what to buy for how much and from which companies?
J. B. Pritzker: (50:38)
Well, what’s going into our decisions about what to buy and how much of it to buy is again the modeling that’s been done about how many cases we’ll have in the state, how many people will be end up being in ICU beds, how many people will end up needing hospitalization, how much triage do we need at all of the facilities, how many new healthcare workers will we need to bring online and what will the state take responsibility for within that? So, that’s a lot of what our considerations are. We’re going to do whatever it takes. Honestly. This is about saving people’s lives. So we’re going to do whatever it takes and as to who we buy equipment from, honestly we’ve taken emails and incoming calls from a lot of potential vendors of the items that we talk about every day in PPE. And we’ve looked into, well, nearly all of them and tried to find the best prices and of course the most effective equipment, those that are FDA approved and so on. And then make sure we get the best prices for the people of Illinois. But we’re going to keep working on that and anybody that has the potential to sell us ventilators or N95 masks, gloves, et cetera, we’re either reaching out to or please contact our office or the IDPH.
Governor, would you consider using any of your personal fortune to help acquire some of the PPE if that’s what it took to get it?
J. B. Pritzker: (52:06)
Well, I’ve reached out to an awful lot of people in the business community that I know to get them to help us acquire PPE from around the world. Many of them have offered their resources. I, of course, have been charitable as you know, over the years and intend to be in this situation as well. I’m going to be doing everything that I can. I’m certainly working morning, noon and night and I’ll put my resources to bear on it too.
Speaker 6: (52:34)
All right. This will be the last question. How many tests are now running daily in Illinois and where is that number expected to go in the days to come?
J. B. Pritzker: (52:41)
I probably should turn this over to IDPH, to Dr. Ezike, but I’ll just tell you, because I track this pretty closely, so I’ll give you a sense. I talked about it in my remarks, but I’ll repeat. We’re roughly doing about 2000 tests within the state of Illinois today. 2000 tests per day within the state of Illinois. Again, we started with just 50 tests per day. So we’ve ramped that up significantly on our own in state. There are also commercial laboratories around the nation that are doing these tests. However, it takes longer to use a commercial lab outside of Illinois than it does any lab that’s inside the state of Illinois. So we’re going to use whatever resources we need to ramp up what we have in the state. I talked about how we have the capability to add another 2,800 or so tests in the relatively near future in the state. And I’m looking for every which way, including acquiring more equipment for laboratories across the state to help spin up more testing because testing… You heard the WHO director say, “Test, test, test. Test, test, test.” We have got to do more testing. We’re going to get that done. And I’m very focused on that and PPE and ventilators and all of the equipment, everything that’s required for us to address this challenge.
Speaker 6: (54:07)
All right, thank you everybody.
J. B. Pritzker: (54:07)