Apr 10, 2020

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 10

Illinois Governor Briefing April 10
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsIllinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 10

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a press briefing today, April 10. He warned against a second spike in cases in Illinois. Read the full transcript here.


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J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
In cities and towns all across our state and our nation. First, we need more ubiquitous testing. We’re working hard to expand our state testing capacity and as we do so we’re thinking seriously about where and how these tests are available and to whom.

J.B. Pritzker: (00:18)
To that end, my team and I have worked to set up a partnership between the downtown Lurie Children’s Hospital in the city of Chicago and four federally qualified health centers on the city’s South and West sides. These FQHC’s, a designation given to community based health centers that welcome those who are low income uninsured or under insured, are Lawndale Christian Health Center and PCC Community Wellness on the West side and Chicago Family Health Center and Friend Health on the South side. Starting next week, these centers will take specimens for 400 people per day and send them to Lurie for testing.

J.B. Pritzker: (01:04)
And in the Metro East region we’re launching a similar operation. Starting next week, three locations of the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation System will be taking 470 specimens per day and sending them to Anderson Hospital in Madison County.

J.B. Pritzker: (01:23)
What Anderson and Lurie are doing, looking beyond their front doors to see how they can help, this represents the very best of Illinois. I can’t thank them enough. No community is getting through this alone. The fastest way through is maximizing our resources across Illinois and these hospital labs are stepping up to make that happen for all of us.

J.B. Pritzker: (01:50)
I’m also excited to announce that our new state run South suburban drive through testing center will open early next week in the Markham-Harvey area. We’ll be taking hundreds of specimens per day with test results coming back to patients much faster than the federally contracted labs. As for our existing two state drive through sites, we’ve secured an extension of our federal contracts while we work to transition these sites to run entirely through state and local labs for faster test results.

J.B. Pritzker: (02:25)
Testing is crucial, but we also need to talk about what happens after a person gets a test or doesn’t get a test but has symptoms or has a known exposure to COVID-19. How does that person protect themselves? How do they protect their family members, their roommates, their loved ones? Across the state we have multi-generational families living under one roof. And especially in our cities, we have families and roommates living in smaller apartment units that makes self isolating much, much more difficult. As part of our early crisis preparations, we required each of our local jurisdictions to come up with an alternate housing plan to help residents quarantine in a safe place. Simultaneously, we at the state level began preparing up to 2000 hotel rooms outside of Chicago to support suburban and downstate communities.

J.B. Pritzker: (03:22)
When a local health department needs help beyond its local alternate housing plan, we can open the provision of these hotel rooms for additional capacity. We have rooms available in Springfield, Rockford, Metro East, the Quad Cities, Schomburg, Mount Vernon, Peoria, Carbondale, Quincy, Marion, Macomb, Champaign, and the collar counties ready to be activated by next week based on county needs.

J.B. Pritzker: (03:55)
We’re also providing support to the city of Chicago and Cook County in their own efforts. These hotel rooms are for people who tested positive for the virus but have low level symptoms and don’t need hospital level care. There are other rooms available for people who were exposed to a COVID-19 positive person and are therefore a person under investigation who may need to move out of their home as a precautionary measure to make sure that they don’t expose their families or their roommates. This extends to our first responder communities, especially.

J.B. Pritzker: (04:29)
Local health departments will be making decisions about these housing needs. We’ve utilized the full weight of IDPH’s clinical and technical capacity to bolster our local health departments COVID response and we’re now directing a combined $6.8 million to help mitigate every health department’s financial stress during this crisis.

J.B. Pritzker: (04:53)
I want to remind people that these hotel rooms are in addition to the alternate care capacity at McCormick Place at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, Metro South Hospital in Blue Island, Sherman Hospital in Elgin, and Vibra Hospital in Springfield.

J.B. Pritzker: (05:10)
Additionally, I’m very pleased that the federal government has granted our request to use the VA Hospital system to support COVID-19 patients as medically necessary. I also want to recognize the Illinois Primary Healthcare Association and its vast network of community healthcare centers who are working so hard across the state to support and improve the health of our residents. From cities to rural towns, these centers already played a critical role in public health through their support of many of our most vulnerable residents. And in the midst of a pandemic, they are one of the first lines of defense against COVID-19. This week, 45 community health centers across Illinois are receiving more than $51 million through the bipartisan Federal Cares Act to sustain their response to this virus.

J.B. Pritzker: (06:08)
I also want to provide an update on our Abbott rapid test distribution. As I mentioned on Wednesday, Illinois received 15 rapid test machines. While we’re still working to acquire the necessary materials to scale up their use beyond the 120 federally provided tests, we are deploying these machines in the following manner so that they’re ready to go as soon as the new tests come in. Seven of these machines are going to the federally qualified health centers that I mentioned earlier, two each to Chicago South and West sides, and the remaining three to East St. Louis and the surrounding region. Another three will go to the Illinois Department of Human Services facilities, the Ludeman Development Center in Park Forest, the Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee, and the Elgin Mental Health Center. And the final five will go to the Illinois Department of Corrections facilities: Stateville, Logan, Graham, Dickson, and Menard.

J.B. Pritzker: (07:11)
To close, I want to say that we’re making sure that our plans reflect equity in access, in testing, and in treatment and we’re asking the same of healthcare providers across the state. It is essential that healthcare institutions operate to fulfill their obligations, to render healthcare in an ethical and non-discriminatory manner. This is a crisis and providers may have to operate beyond their normal capacity and allocate limited healthcare resources. No one life is any more important than another.

J.B. Pritzker: (07:50)
Today, we issued guidance that vulnerable and historically marginalized communities must receive equitable care so that no person of color or person with disabilities suffers a disparate outcome due to a legacy of discrimination. It’s in moments like these that we owe each other even greater expressions of humanity.

J.B. Pritzker: (08:14)
And with that I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ezike for our medical update today.

Speaker 1: (08:18)
[inaudible 00:08:19].

Dr. Ezike: (08:23)
Thank you Governor and good afternoon everyone. I’m inspired by your commitment to make sure that all lives matter and that everyone gets equal care United we stand and divided we fall. I’m inspired by all of you who are following the recommendations to make sure that we do all that we can to ensure the safety of our entire community.

Dr. Ezike: (08:50)
Unfortunately today I must report that 68 additional lives have been lost to COVID-19 and there are 1, 465 new cases. That brings our total to 596 lives lost and a total of 17,887 cases.

Dr. Ezike: (09:15)
Health disparities and inequalities are major concerns to me as the Public Health Director and I’ve always encouraged our agency to use a health equity lens in every aspect of the work we do. In our COVID-19 data, we see alarmingly high rates of COVID-19 in the black population. This disparity is true both for cases and in the deaths. Overall mortality rates among blacks are five times higher than whites.

Dr. Ezike: (09:47)
And when you break it down by age groups, the disparities are even higher. For people in their 50s, the mortality rate is 12 times higher for blacks than their white counterparts. For people in their 60s, the rate is eight times higher for blacks than their white counterparts. For people in their 70s, it’s 10 times.

Dr. Ezike: (10:10)
Comorbidities and underlying health conditions, yes, they often contribute to more severe illness from COVID-19 and death. We know that African Americans generally do have higher rates of heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, and black adults are nearly twice as likely as white adults to have higher rates of obesity as per the National Institutes of Health. Black life expectancy continues to be years shorter than the population as a whole, and there are many reasons for this and let’s not, of course, forget the centuries of structural and institutional racism.

Dr. Ezike: (10:57)
Additional issues that worsened the COVID- 19 disparities include having jobs that put people at higher risk of exposure, being underinsured or uninsured, lacking access to regular medical care, and the fact, as governor Pritzker mentioned, that black populations potentially live in extended family settings with more people in the same setting. As the governor mentioned, the state is working on alternative housing and communities of color to address some of these challenges of people who live in close communities and who may be at risk or who’ve already been found to be positive.

Dr. Ezike: (11:39)
At IDPH, we’ve also created the COVID-19 equity team. It’s comprised of our director for the Center of Minority Health and it involves other state agencies as well as many community organizations that will serve as the voice and the informational hub on how to accurately address health disparities. We will not stand idly by while one segment of the population bears an unfortunate heightened burden of this disease. The equity team will identify emerging issues and patterns impacting medically and socially vulnerable communities while assessing and proposing specific actionable recommendations. Testing must be increased among the disproportionately affected populations. This will allow for earlier more effective isolation and segregation of the exposed individuals.

Dr. Ezike: (12:39)
Starting today, the health equity team launched COVID-19 text messaging. You can opt-in to receive text messages so that you can have the most accurate information about coronavirus and how you can protect yourself. Simply text the word COVID, C-O-V-I-D to (312)500-3836 or for Spanish text COVID ESP to the same number (312)500-3836.

Dr. Ezike: (13:17)
We must address the dramatic disparity we’re seeing. We’ve got to tackle it head on and we hope that these steps will start to do just that. I want to reassure the people of Illinois that we are working for the health and safety of all people of Illinois. We won’t hide from the hard truth, but rather elevate the truth and then address it. We must all continue to stay at home. We must all continue to wash our hands. We must keep our six feet of distance so that we can turn the tide and end this pandemic as soon as possible.

Dr. Ezike: (13:54)
And with that, I will summarize the comments in Spanish. [Spanish 00:14:02]

Speaker 2: (15:25)
[ foreign language 00:00:02]. And with that I will turn it over to Dr. Horace Smith.

Dr. Horace Smith: (18:48)
Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon everyone. My name is Dr. Horace Smith and I stand here today in dual roles. I’m also … I’m a physician at Lurie Children’s in the Department of Hematology Oncology Transplant, have been there since 1978 but also I’m a pastor of one of our churches on the South side of Chicago. I am so happy to be here today because of the work of our governor, of our mayor, of all the health professionals and of the communities that today are announcing, I think, some tremendous strides forward in our fight against this pandemic. These subjects today about disparities in healthcare are not new to us, but often they get pushed to the side. I can remember about a week or so ago when the announcements were made about the disparities of numbers of case of COVID-19 and the African American community and mortality, and people were astounded. I will say to you that for many of us, we were not surprised.

Dr. Horace Smith: (19:53)
These are issues that have been in these communities for a long time and oftentimes because of the ability for us to ignore what’s happening, it takes something catastrophic for us to really pay attention that these communities don’t only need help today and what you’ve announced about the testing and about availability, but really I want to praise the governor and our mayor and all those who understand that these are endemic long standing issues. We must deliberately, with all of us together, face the unpleasantries of what’s happening in our nation. It is a very unique situation that African Americans and Latinos and others who have been vulnerable for a long time are hit the hardest. In scripture, we are taught that we owe the most to those who have the least, and so we must not ignore this. We must not be divided by it. We must do what’s being done today.

Dr. Horace Smith: (20:54)
We must make sure that supplies of healthcare are available. I would caution all of us to understand these disparities. Healthcare is a trust issue. If there’s a community that does not trust institutions, you can live next door to a hospital, but you will wait until the last minute to go to the emergency room. That is not good healthcare. If there’s no trust, then there will not be accessibility. And so as we opened these centers, I’m so glad to hear them opening on the South side and the West side where the people are hit the hardest. And I would speak to my fellow neighborhoods and community and tell them, please continue to observe hand-washing, observe social distancing, observe wearing your mask outside. But also I want to encourage you to not be afraid, to get tested. The next step in the fight against COVID is going to be universal testing.

Dr. Horace Smith: (21:57)
If we have a community that’s vulnerable in small spaces and yet they have all these comorbidities, we should not be surprised by the vast numbers who are infected and those who are dying. As a pastor and as a leader in the healthcare community, I’m appalled to see such death, such a wide basis. But again, we must join together. We must practice these things that will mitigate our abilities to be infected, and we must connect with one another. While we’re distant socially, we must not be distant in any other way. We must connect communities, we must connect families. We must make sure that our most vulnerable, our seniors and others, are cared for, and what’s being done today is a step forward. So again, please, as we address this today, and going forward, and we will get to the end of this pandemic, let’s make sure we also attack the longterm institutional problems that have always been a part of our community. And so thank you and we’re praying for all of us together. May God bless you. It is my pleasure today now to introduce Dr. McKinney with further update at this time.

Dr. Suzette McKinney: (23:18)
Thank you Dr. Smith, and good afternoon. My name is Dr. Suzette McKinney. I serve as the CEO and executive director of the Illinois Medical District. For the purpose of the state of Illinois’s COVID-19 response, I am serving as the operations lead for the five alternate care sites. In this capacity, I am responsible for overseeing the operations for each of these sites and coordinating with city of Chicago, state, federal and the appropriate county officials. I want to reiterate that these alternate care sites, McCormick place, Metro South, West Lake, Sherman and Vibra are intended to supplement, not replace, our acute care hospitals. We know that if we approach critical mass in hospitals, these sites will be used as step-down facilities to open up bed space within hospitals for the most critically ill.

Dr. Suzette McKinney: (24:19)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners at the Army Corps of Engineers and all of the hardworking men and women on the construction and project management teams who are working so diligently to bring these facilities online as quickly as possible. I would also like to thank Governor Pritzker and Dr. Izike for their leadership and for trusting me with the opportunity to serve the state of Illinois in this capacity.

Dr. Suzette McKinney: (24:49)
As a native Chicagoian, and a product of the South side. I am honored to serve in this capacity, furthering my life’s work in public health and helping our communities to understand how we can combat the social determinants that are plaguing our community every day. For those of us who are Christians, we know that Easter is a major holiday in our community. But Jesus didn’t die for our sins and rose again just so that you could go to grandma’s house and enjoy a piece of caramel cake. But this Easter we are asking you to stay home so that you will have the opportunity to celebrate with her at a later time. Even if you do not have symptoms, every time you leave the house you are putting your life and the lives of others at risk. So please stay home. And with that I’d like to introduce Bishop Simon Gordon. Thank you.

Bishop Simon Gordon: (25:53)
Thank you Dr. McKinney. My name is Bishop Simon Gordon. I’m the pastor of Tri Stone Church of Chicago in the Beverly area of the South side. I want to, first of all, thank and really say that our governor has done such a great job defending our state nationally and he is to be commended for fighting for us from the beginning, even to this particular time. But secondly, I want to say that I’m grateful to the fact that he not only heeded what the response was in the African American community, but he heard and now he’s doing something specifically about it. This call to action starting at next week is going to make tremendous changes and how we’re able to allow our community to get more testing, a more accurate understanding of where we stand, as well as put our community in a better place for longevity and for strength.

Bishop Simon Gordon: (26:51)
So we need as well our community of faith to join him with this. I am grateful for all of the churches who have decided and listened to the mandate and stop having church the way we had it in the past. I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful for so many who have changed the way we’ve done funerals and home going services, which is traumatic for a lot of people, to be in a posture where they have to have a private setting to send a loved one away. But all of those things are so necessary at this particular time so that we can hinder the spread of this [inaudible 00:27:27] disease.

Bishop Simon Gordon: (27:28)
So those of us who have food pantries, who are doing census for 2020 and still having interaction to keep our community vibrant and being safe and practicing all the things we have to practice to make sure the community is served, we need to as well put ourselves on the line to make sure that people know clearly where to go, where they can get tested, get proper results, and keep following the mandates that make sense to where we are now. I don’t care if we have to do it through phone banking or how we do it, it’s important that we do it at this particular time. Our community-

Bishop Simon Gordon: (28:03)
… leadership and our landscapes are changing, specifically in the African American community. We’ve heard of so many people who have died from this pandemic right here in our city. So many church leaders, pastors who have passed in this a pandemic. I just want to close my comments by just mentioning there are some that are well known. There are some that are not quite as known as well. Yet, they are community leaders and they make a difference in their community. I want to mention just one family. This family is Pastor Joseph Cannon. His wife is Ernestine Cannon. We’re doing their funeral services next week. Both of them died from COVID-19. They leave four surviving children, but they also at the same time leave a church family and a church community and a community at large with an absence.

Bishop Simon Gordon: (29:03)
So all of us, it’s our time for us to do our best to make sure we follow through, to make sure we beat COVID-19. We have to work hard to make sure that we do this. So small and great included in all of us, it’s an opportunity to make a difference and we all need to do that with the best of our efforts. So all at the end of the day we can have great success. Again, thank you to our governor for stepping up, stepping out, staying on the cutting edge, pushing it, hearing our voices and making sure that whatever needs to happen happens, so that we can see Illinois be a victory statement when it comes to this. Again, thank you governor. And I’d like to present back to you our own governor, J.B. Pritzker.

J.B. Pritzker: (29:48)
Thank you, Bishop. Thank you very much and I just want to say that to all of you who don’t maybe know the three new people who stand behind me today. These are great public servants. I’ve known them for some time. They’re great people who represent our communities all across Chicago and who are real leaders. And I’m honored to have all of you here today. And I appreciate you being here. I’m happy to take any questions from members of the media that are in the room and then we’ll take some from online.

Speaker 3: (30:19)
Just to follow up on your comments yesterday regarding summer gatherings, perhaps needing to be looked at and possibly canceled, by that same logic, is it inevitable you’re going to have to cancel onsite schooling for the rest of the year? And just to also follow up on the same thing, in order to reopen the economy in a robust way, you mentioned the need for widespread testing. Is 10,000 the number you’ve been throwing out, is that enough? Or are we talking about even greater amounts of testing and should the president invoke Defense Production Act as far as testing is concerned?

J.B. Pritzker: (30:50)
Well, I’ve been saying for some time now that the president should be invoking the Defense Production Act for everything that we need to combat this pandemic. This is a war. It’s a war against COVID-19, if there’s ever a time when you need to organize our industries in the country to address this with PPE, with testing supplies, with machines, these are all things that we need to accomplish, the goals that we need to make a priority in this. So, that’s my first answer. As to your earlier question. Look, yesterday I was trying to address the question of whether people should be thinking about what to do about their festivals over the summer. And I was merely suggesting that people should contemplate, what if, because we need to follow what the scientists and the doctors tell us.

J.B. Pritzker: (31:46)
That’s the most important thing, that we’ve got to save as many lives as possible. And so that’s going to help dictate what the answers to the questions are. It’s not what I’m saying at the podium on any given day. It’s really about what the best scientists that we’ve got are telling us how we ought to operate going forward. Because, this is all about saving lives. That is what this is all about. So I’m going to follow that advice. And to your question, that follows the question about schools, will be dictated again by where are we as we approach April 30th, which is the end of our current stay at home order.

J.B. Pritzker: (32:23)
And what progress has been made and what are the doctors saying about could you congregate groups of people together in the sizes that classrooms tend to be in the size of. So again, I’m going to wait and listen to as we make progress here. And you heard me say yesterday, we’re making progress. So that’s good news. But, I don’t want to project what next week or the week after will exactly look like because I don’t exactly know when we’re going to peak or how fast the down slide will be if we do come down off of that peak, or if peaking means that we’re simply flattening the curve, and flattening the curve and staying at the peak for some period of time and then falling. We just don’t know yet.

Speaker 3: (33:03)
Just one more. The President today said that the governors, and he didn’t name any by name, but he said that the governors are more satisfied now that their phones have not been ringing off the hook from the governors. Have you continued to … are you satisfied with where things are in terms of PPE and everything right now? Have you been still calling?

J.B. Pritzker: (33:23)
I won’t be satisfied until we’re past this pandemic, frankly. So, if you hear me complain now and again, if you hear me argue for more for Illinois, it’s because we need it and it’s because we’re doing everything that we can and it’s not enough. And therefore, we need help from others. And so I’m going to make that plea wherever I need to. But, we’re doing everything we can. I feel like we are making progress, but I’m going to be on the phone with the governors and with the Vice President, with the President for as long and as often as I need to be.

Speaker 4: (33:58)
And governor, I don’t know if you were made aware earlier in the day, but since we’ve been in this room, the Chicago Police Department announced that they’ve lost their second member to COVID-19. So first of all, your reaction to that. And part two of that is there are still first responders on the first line, both within the Chicago Police Department, and other departments who still claim they aren’t being protected, not enough is being done to keep them safe.

J.B. Pritzker: (34:20)
With regard to PPE. I mean, let me address the loss of another member of our law enforcement. This has happened across the state. Our first responders, they’re the ones protecting us. They, and our healthcare workers. And so every loss of life is a loss to all of us. But, someone who’s out there every day, as they leave their home and kiss their family goodbye, knows that they’re exposing themselves potentially to people who have COVID-19, and doing so to protect all of us. Those people are worthy of some special note. Those are heroes. And so every loss is important to all of us. We’re paying attention to every loss. But again, those heroes are special and should be taken note of each time. So I’m glad you raised it to my attention. Thank you.

Speaker 4: (35:19)
And then as for the PPE.

J.B. Pritzker: (35:19)
Yeah. PPE, so we are providing PPE to law enforcement all across the state. We have state police that are coordinating the provision of PPE to police departments, fire departments, other first responders. Remember, that the state is really the backup and support. We’ll deliver. I mean, if a police department doesn’t have what it needs, they simply need to reach out to the State Police or to IEMA, the Emergency Management Agency for Illinois. And we will make sure that they get what they need. And we are constantly out in the global market acquiring the PPE that’s necessary. We have it today. So anybody that says that they don’t have it or they aren’t being given the PPE, first thing they should do is go to their superiors at their own agency, at their police department or fire department, and ask them for that PPE. And if they’re not getting it there, they can call their local health department, which is where we often deliver much of the PPE that we’re sending around the state or to the State Police. And we will make sure that PPE is provided to their department.

Speaker 4: (36:23)
And some questions from others. This comes from a Telemundo here in Chicago. Norwegian Hospital CEO was worried about nursing and medical staff leaving their posts for other jobs at McCormick Place and other alternative medical care facilities. He says they just can’t compete with the wages that are offered at McCormick and is worried that they’re going to end up with a critical shortage of staff to operate. Is this something that you’re reviewing?

J.B. Pritzker: (36:44)
I want to make clear what’s happening. So, nationally there is a shortage of healthcare workers. And they are looking everywhere, in New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut, and the states that you’ve heard of that are hotspots, including by the way in Michigan. They’re hiring wherever they can find people. And there is a market for those people. And so they’re being bid up, essentially. So the competition is coming from all over the country. Again, this is because there is no organization of the supply chain, even of people here, which the President could be helpful with.

J.B. Pritzker: (37:20)
But, this is where we are. And so it is true that alternate care facilities in Illinois are also in that market. But we are not hiring, we are not hiring or making … we’re not making any effort to reach out to people in the Chicago market within a certain radius of Chicago, because we don’t want to take away from existing facilities in order to have them work at one of our alternate care facilities. That doesn’t mean though that someone who is part-time and not assigned to any given hospital, and therefore isn’t on staff, doesn’t put themselves in the market for one of these other positions, either in another state or in an alternate care facility.

J.B. Pritzker: (38:00)
So we’re trying to be careful to not try to poach anybody from an existing facility. And we want to make sure that everybody’s fully staffed.

Speaker 4: (38:09)
And this comes from the NBC political team. They’re looking for confirmation. Can you talk a little bit further on a staff member at Stateville on March 27th allegedly knowingly transferred an inmate with COVID symptoms from D housing to segregation X house, even though X house had been on lockdown with no cases since March 14th. Now, as of yesterday, all but two of the 14 on X house reportedly have tested positive for coronavirus.

J.B. Pritzker: (38:35)
I’m not sure I’m aware of that particular case. If you’ll give me more details about it, I’ll make sure that my staff is responsive. We’ve done quite a lot, as you may know, not only with Stateville, but also all of our congregate facilities, but prisons in particular, to make sure that we have PPE everywhere, that we’re segregating populations of people who have COVID-19, from people who don’t. We’re trying our best to protect all of the officers that work at the prisons and all the staff. And we take special care. I mean, frankly, every day when we have our meetings, twice a day really, but in the middle of the day we discuss how we’re managing the congregate facilities or at least managing to provide PPE and guidance to all of those facilities.

J.B. Pritzker: (39:26)
And how that’s going. It’s very difficult. There’s no question about it. When you have people who can’t be moved easily, whether it’s in a nursing home, because they can’t be moved or in the developmental disabilities home or in a prison. These are all difficult circumstances and we are doing our absolute best. And I know that our Department of Corrections is to make sure that we’re separating properly. But, I’ll look into the particular matter if you give us the details.

Speaker 4: (39:51)
And this question comes from Univision. You’ve made it clear that you don’t necessarily agree with some of the peak projections that are circulating. So in the interest of transparency, can you share your own methods and models for calculations and peak in our area?

J.B. Pritzker: (40:05)
Well, we have multiple models. It would be hard for me just to point at one particular thing. And here’s the thing. Even any model that everybody likes to point at the IHME model and it’s a fine model, but the range of possibility between the low end and the high end, we’re talking about, I think 30,000 beds difference between the low end and the high end of that model. So, how do you even build for that range? So you have to kind of look at several models, look at what their assumptions are, talk to our own experts. We’ve got some of the best in the world right here in Illinois, that we rely upon to listen to how they look at those models, and also their own models.

J.B. Pritzker: (40:51)
And then, you’re basically taking several models and trying to guesstimate where is the right spot to aim for. And then the question that I think everybody should be thinking about, which is, it’s not just about the peak that we’re potentially going through over the next several weeks. There’s also the threat of a peak in the Fall. And doctors will tell you that if you look back at the Spanish flu, at other pandemics, and even if you look at other countries that have opened up after they’ve peaked, that you see a resurgence of cases because we don’t have a vaccine yet, and there isn’t a treatment either, yet.

J.B. Pritzker: (41:31)
So if you really begin to open things up, you’re going to have a second wave. And so we need to make sure that we’re fully prepared. We don’t want to have a second wave, and God forbid we do, because other places in the country open up or because we make adjustments and they aren’t proper, which I hope we don’t do. Improper ones, that is. That we have to be able to address that. So, all of the acquisition of PPE and ventilators and-

J.B. Pritzker: (42:03)
And ventilators and the maintenance of ICU beds in hospitals has that in mind and again, we look at multiple models in order to try and guesstimate, and that’s really the best you can do, what you really need.

Speaker 5: (42:15)
We’ll do one more in the room. Anyone else? Okay. We’ll go online. A community health center in Jacksonville laid off staff and closed doors today because it has too few patients coming in. One, are those medical staff needed in other hotspots and two, what is your plan to keep these medical centers open? That’s from Mark Maxwell at WCIA.

J.B. Pritzker: (42:34)
Well, there’s certainly no intention to hire them away from an existing health center, but certainly any of the folks who were working at a health center that are no longer working there because that center is closed, we need them elsewhere. We need them at another facility. Trust me. There are ways that you can engage in that. Illinois Helps, illinoishelps.net, or you can reach out to the local health department or directly to the IDPH or IEMA to make sure that we know about you. I know one thing which is a health center shouldn’t be closing and I’m surprised to learn of that closing. There is money that’s coming in, I think I just announced it moments ago, that’s going to health centers. Maybe it’s not enough. And I would argue that the hospitals and health centers in the country are not getting enough yet from the federal relief packages. So, I’m lobbying and arguing for more, but I am sorry that a health center anywhere in the state has closed.

Speaker 5: (43:40)
This is from Jim Haggerty downstate. The vice president urged people this morning to keep Easter gatherings to fewer than 10 people. Is that something you would agree with or would you tell Illinoisans to limit a holiday gathering to just those in their own households?

J.B. Pritzker: (43:52)
Well, I would like people to stay at home. I mean, that is the safest best thing that they can do. Stay home. Celebrate at home. You can do so over telecommunications, over video conferencing, Zoom or Skype or some other method and many, many of the pastors that are here will acknowledge everybody would like to get together for the holidays, but this is just one holiday where I think the teachings from the Bible will tell you that it is our obligation to save a life if we have the opportunity to. Staying home is saving a life. Not just your own, somebody else’s.

Speaker 5: (44:37)
Dan Petrella at the Chicago Tribune asks, the New York Times obtained a Homeland Security projection showing infections might spike in mid to late summer if stay at home orders are lifted after 30 days. Are you familiar with these projections and when will you decide whether to extend?

J.B. Pritzker: (44:52)
I just read a brief paragraph about it maybe an hour or two ago. So, obviously, I take that as some important information to take into account. Again, this is about the science and the medicine. We need to listen to that. I have said before that you need testing, tracing, and treatment. Testing, tracing, and treatment. Those are the three things that we need in order to really make enormous changes. Even with that, I would still say we all need to pray for those who are developing the treatments and the vaccines. I know they’re all very hard at work at it and they’re trying everything that they can to get us something as soon as humanly possible, but if you want to pray for somebody over this weekend, pray for them.

Speaker 5: (45:48)
Shruti Singh at Bloomberg asks, the data appears to indicate that the coronavirus case growth rate is slowing and Illinois is bending the curve, but the number of new cases today was higher than yesterday. Can you comment on the prospects for bending the curve down as well as what’s expected next in terms of next steps needed to bend it down further.

J.B. Pritzker: (46:07)
Who was it that was-

Speaker 5: (46:08)
Shruti at Bloomberg.

J.B. Pritzker: (46:09)
Got it. So, look, I said yesterday that I believe when you look at the data, it appears to me that we are bending the curve. As far as bending the curve down, that evidence isn’t quite there yet, but bending it, in other words, downward so it has a downward slope. We aren’t there yet, but remember that we were increasing the number of deaths and increasing the number of cases in an exponential fashion for a little while. And we put in place the stay at home order on March 21st. Announced it on the 20th, put it in place on the 21st. That’s roughly three and a half weeks now. We’re starting to see that even if today’s number is slightly higher than yesterday’s in terms of deaths, and again, every life is an enormous loss to all of us.

J.B. Pritzker: (47:06)
But when you look at the statistics anyway, I think what people see in those numbers is that there’s a leveling going on. It may not be perfectly level, but we’ve bounced around. we were in the 70s and the 80s and the 60s twice now in a row. I pray every day I see these numbers. Maybe not first, but I see them early and before I look at them, I must admit to you, I pray and I think about are the numbers going the right direction? And I think you would see also that the number of cases that are being detected as we have increasing testing. And you saw today that we were again over 6,000. I think even over 6,500 that we had around a level number of cases detected. So, again, I’m not a doctor and I’m not a statistician but I can read numbers and understand what leveling looks like. Again, a few days in a row is a good sign and a glimmer of hope.

Speaker 5: (48:15)
This is from Mike Miletich at the Quincy Bureau in Springfield. More than two-thirds of rural counties across the country have a confirmed case and at least one case of a COVID-19 death and one in 10 are reporting at least one death. What can you do to make sure Illinois rural areas are getting the testing they deserve?

J.B. Pritzker: (48:33)
That is a great question and I hope that some of you saw there was a New York Times article precisely about rural communities that the increase in cases as a percentage of population, the increase in deaths as a percentage of population, is increasing at a much higher rate than it is now in urban environments. I can’t tell you exactly what the reason for that is, although there are people who have, because there was nobody in their county for a little while who had died from it or maybe just a few cases. I think there were people who thought, “Why do I need to stay at home? Why should I follow these orders?” And I think now people are beginning to see because of very unfortunate results that it is very important for people to follow these orders. So, what can we do?

J.B. Pritzker: (49:22)
We need to make sure that we have testing available for rural communities. And you heard me talk about the fact that in downstate Illinois we, in fact, are increasing testing. I talked about the Metro East area, but Carbondale and Edwardsville both, we monitor very closely and the critical access hospitals and health centers that are in other communities in Downstate Illinois are receiving funding. They’re receiving testing. They have swabs. Many of them have the ability to send the testing to our state labs. We have a state lab that’s in Carbondale, one in Springfield, so we have the ability to collect those swabs and test them in relatively short order and we want to make sure that everybody has testing available. That is why we must increase testing everywhere. It isn’t just in Chicago or just in Cook County or just in the black community. Everywhere in this state. In fact, that is going to be the key for us getting out of this crisis.

Speaker 5: (50:24)
This is from Hannah Meisel at the Daily Line. When will Westlake Hospital be up and running to respond to COVID-19 patients? What about other shuttered hospitals the state has identified for opening again? If they’re not up and running by the time Illinois hits our peak, will they only be open as long as money in the cares acts can pay for them?

Speaker 6: (50:42)
So, to address that question, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date that they will be open, but what I can tell you is that our target date for Westlake Hospital, Metro South, as well as Sherman Hospital, is April 24th for completion of construction. Once construction is complete, we will need about two days to train all of the staff and have the facility ready to open and accept patients. For Vibra hospital, we have a little bit more of an extended timeline. We are targeting May 9th for construction completion at Vibra.

J.B. Pritzker: (51:18)
Let me just make sure that people who live in the vicinity of vibrant Springfield understand why that is. First of all, we monitor very closely the hospitals all across the state, how many beds are filled, how many ICU beds are filled, how many ventilators are being used and so on. Fortunately, in that area of the state, at least right now, and again, we have not hit peak yet and who knows when that will happen. Sometime over the next several weeks perhaps. But it won’t be exactly the same in every area of the state. And indeed, as I was saying earlier in rural populations, what we’re seeing is that the increase in cases and deaths is at a higher rate than in other areas. So, I think the timing here is correct and I will say that there are some terrific hospitals in the Springfield area that will be serving people until they might reach a point where there will be an overflow.

J.B. Pritzker: (52:22)
Last thing to say is just so everybody remembers, we are all praying that we don’t need any of these alternate care facilities. We’re building them out because we want to make sure that there is nobody who does not have a hospital bed to go to, that there’s nobody who is without a ventilator or without an ICU bed that they may need.

Speaker 5: (52:42)
This is our last question. It’s from Rebecca at Capitol News, Illinois. How has the pandemic changed how your family celebrated Passover this year? Do you have any advice or recommendations for families celebrating Easter this weekend?

J.B. Pritzker: (52:55)
Well, I was a part of two different Seders on both nights of Passover and they were both over Zoom. I’m not advertising for any particular method, but they happened both to be set up by somebody else and they were both on Zoom. Yeah. WebEx is being advertised over here and Skype I’ve heard also. So, there are lots of ways to do it. I will say that it was almost fun. Really. Because you can connect with people that might not otherwise be able to get to your home on a typical Passover or a typical Easter and this is an opportunity for you to experience this all the same together. I know it doesn’t sound like it, but it really is like being in the same room. You can see everybody. If anybody ever saw the old show Hollywood Squares, it’s a little bit like Hollywood squares. You can see everybody on the same screen and talk to them all and it’s really quite good. So, my staff who are all about half my age are laughing in the background because they don’t know what Hollywood Squares is. So, anyway, thank you all very much.

J.B. Pritzker: (54:08)
Happy Easter, everybody. [inaudible 00:54:42]

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