Apr 30, 2020
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 30
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a press briefing today, April 30. Illinois’ modified stay-at-home order goes into effect tomorrow. Read the full transcript here.
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Dr. Ezike: (00:00)
… are identified as positive and immediate isolation of individuals that will help prevent spread. More readily available testing will also help us determine if close contacts to the confirmed cases have been infected. Testing is also important for the bigger public health picture, so we can hone our mitigation efforts, do targeted interventions, and learn more about how the virus is spreading and to whom.
Dr. Ezike: (00:27)
Knowing who is infected, is critically important. Which is why we are asking everyone who was tested to make sure they fill out the information on the form completely. The form asks for important information such as; age, gender, race, ethnicity, county of residence, occupation, the clinical history surrounding your situation, recovery, and exposure information.
Dr. Ezike: (00:55)
Gathering this information helps inform our strategy, helps us to understand who is getting affected and in what areas of the state. It helps us to stop spread, and provide support and assistance to communities that are identified as needing it most.
Dr. Ezike: (01:12)
People who can be tested includes anyone who has symptoms; like fever, or shortness of breath, chills, loss of taste, loss of smell, sore throat. But also without symptoms, if you work in a healthcare facility, if you work in a nursing home, if you work in a correctional facility like a jail or a prison. Added to that are the first responders, whether paramedics, EMT, firefighters, law enforcement.
Dr. Ezike: (01:42)
People who support our critical infrastructure such as; grocery store workers, people who work in pharmacies, restaurants, gas stations, public utilities, childcare and sanitation workers. We also are including those who have underlying health conditions. And in the near future as we start to think about elective surgery, those who are having elective surgery. Again, testing and comprehensive information will help us end this pandemic sooner.
Dr. Ezike: (02:14)
Regarding our numbers here in Illinois, we are reporting 2,563 new cases of COVID 19 here in Illinois for a total of 52,918 cases. This includes unfortunately 2,355 lives lost here in Illinois. Of which, 141 were reported in the last 24 hours. To date, we have run a total of 269,867 tests for COVID 19. With 13,200 being performed in the last 24 hours.
Dr. Ezike: (02:57)
As of yesterday, 4, 953 individuals in Illinois, were reported to be in the hospital with COVID 19. Of those, 1,289 patients were in the ICU, and 785 patients were on ventilators. As we further ramp up testing, we need to remember that we all must continue to stay home as much as we can. To wear masks, and social distance if we do have to go out, and to wash our hands frequently. This will continue to work as we remain all in for Illinois. Thank you. And now I will summarize comments in Spanish.
Dr. Ezike: (03:37)
[foreign language 00:03: 40]. [foreign language 00:04:15]. [foreign language 00:05:02]. [foreign language 00:06:07]. [foreign language 00:07: 01].
Dr. Ezike: (07:45)
And with that I will turn it over to governor Pritzker.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (07:49)
Thank you. Well, testing, tracing, and PPE, are key to our ability to reopen our economy and keep people safe. That’s why you’ve heard me talk so much about them so often. Today I want to focus on testing and I’m proud to be joined by Jose Sanchez, the president and CEO of Norwegian American Hospital. Who has been a wonderful partner in expanding testing access in some of our most impacted communities.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (08:23)
Last Friday, when I gave my last update on testing, we had just marked the first day that we’d passed our first major milestone of 10,000 tests per day. A number that we’ve continued to meet every day since. Including today, with 13,200 tests in Illinois over the last 24 hours. Accomplishing a goal of expanding testing involves much more than just a machine to run tests. A lab needs the materials that are necessary to sustain and increase our testing output. And when this pandemic hit the United States, it became immediately evident that our nation just doesn’t produce enough of these raw materials to meet the medical need. With limited assistance from the federal government, Illinois had to do something it has never done before. Aggressively assemble supply chains to acquire the needed materials, such as testing swabs, to allow us to take a specimen from you.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (09:27)
And such as viral transport medium, or VTM, to allow the that sample to be transported safely to a laboratory. And reagents, which are the chemicals that allow a testing machine to actually run the tests. When we began, all three of those raw materials were in extreme shortage across the world.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (09:50)
Our procurement teams have been hard at work competing for those raw materials against every nation, and every state, in the open market, and so far we’re succeeding. Our research universities developed our own VTM, which is relieving pressure to acquire it on the open market. And we’ve acquired swabs using sometimes aggressive tactics, to beat out our competitors.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (10:16)
As of yesterday, I’m pleased to announce the White House has promised Illinois 620,000 individual swabs, and 465,000 vials of VTM, which will be delivered beginning in the first week of May. As we’ve worked to expand testing, we’ve made it a priority to partner directly with organizations to test people in many communities across the state.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (10:44)
We’re working with trusted establishments such as community health centers, and hospitals, to reach our most vulnerable residents. We’ve increased the number of public testing sites to 177 across the state. That’s up from 112 sites last Friday. Tests at these locations are entirely free, and they’re available in every region of the state. I’ll announce them by IDPH region here as I did last week. But you can always go on our website, Coronavirus.Illinois.gov, and explore our interactive map of testing sites to find the one that’s closest to you.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (11:28)
The sites are; 19 sites in the Rockford region, nine sites in the Peoria region, eight sites in the Springfield region, five sites in the Edwardsville region, 33 sites in the Marion region, 10 sites in the champagne region, and in cook County and the Collar counties, 41 sites in the city of Chicago, 22 sites in the Southwest suburbs, eight sites in the West suburbs, 11 sites in the Northwest suburbs and 11 sites in the North suburbs.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (12:07)
More partner hospitals, clinics, and federally qualified health centers are coming online all the time. And I’m proud to announce that we will be adding two new drive through testing locations. Bringing our state run drive through facilities to seven. In addition to our existing locations in Markham, Bloomington, Harwood Heights, Rockford and Aurora, the two new drive-through sites in Waukegan and in East St. Louis, will be open next week.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (12:38)
Rockford and Aurora, our most recent additions, have been running only since the end of last week and they’ve already been an incredible success. Averaging about 1000 specimens a day between the two sites. And we hope to get similar results from our East St. Louis and Waukegan sites when they come online. With a goal of bringing our drive through testing capacity to over 3000 specimens per day.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (13:05)
My team and I continue to consult with health experts, and communities, to determine additional drive-through locations around the state. And I look forward to sharing with you our future updates on this work as soon as we have those sites ready to go.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (13:23)
I know that these past two months have probably felt like a crash course in new terminology and techniques. But as you likely know by now, testing is vital to our efforts to reduce social restrictions, get our economy going, and to protect our residents. With a modified stay at home order beginning tomorrow, I want to briefly touch on the changes that continue those efforts to move toward opening up, giving Illinoisans more flexibility where it is safe to do.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (13:55)
Starting tomorrow, retail stores can reopen by taking orders online, and over the phone, and offering pickup and delivery. Greenhouses and garden centers will be opening with specified social distancing measures in place. Many of our state parks will be open, and many golf courses will open, with strict social distancing measures in place.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (14:18)
And elective surgeries that have been put off due to the crisis, can now be scheduled in surgery centers, and hospitals, in compliance with IDPH guidance. As we open things up and make progress, tomorrow will be the first day where adults and any children over the age of two, and everyone medically able to tolerate a face covering, will be required to wear one in any public place where they can’t maintain a six foot social distance. All these changes represent a shift in our approach to COVID 19, a shift made possible by the millions of Illinoisans who have stepped up by staying home, and keeping each other safe.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (15:03)
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (15:03)
Home and keeping each other safe. To the vast, vast majority of you who believe in the power of being all in for your communities, thank you. Thank you for all that you’ve done and all that you continue to do. It truly makes me proud of the people of our state. So thank you. And now I’d like to turn it over to one of our terrific healthcare partners on the front lines with us in this fight, Jose Sanchez, the president and CEO of Norwegian American hospital.
Jose Sanchez: (15:38)
Good afternoon, and thank you governor JB Pritzker. Deputy governor Sol Flores. Dr. [inaudible 00:15:50] for the opportunity to participate in this press conference. For over 125 years, Norwegian American hospital has been an integral part of the Humboldt Park community, which includes Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, as well as individual from a variety of multicultural backgrounds. We provide excellent compassionate healthcare and it has been a privileged to lead that institution for the last 10 years. Our Humboldt Park community is rich in cultural diversity, struggle with poverty, substance use disorders, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, lack of some basic needs. Additionally, crowded housing is common. More than twice as likely compared to other neighborhoods in our city here. Norwegian American hospital continue to play a vital role battling COVID-19, and we are proud to have launched drive through testing this week to address this serious health inequities we have seen in our community.
Jose Sanchez: (17:04)
We have partnered with [inaudible 00:17:06] family services, [inaudible 00:02:09], and the Puerto Rican cultural center. Thanks to the outstanding leadership and support of governor JB Pritzker and deputy governor Sol Flores, we were able to acquire testing kits for our community. We have received overwhelming response and number of requests for testing, and we are pleased to lead this effort and Humboldt Park on the West side of our city. By the end of this week, we will have completed hundreds of tests. Due to the health inequities, it is critical that we identify individuals that have COVID-19 early so we can provide interventions and prevent the spread of virus in our underserved communities. Our Latino and African American community have significant comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and lack of basic needs. This put them most at risk of dying. To date, over 80% of those we have tested are Latino and African American, and half have tested positive. We want to continue to address the serious health needs and expand our testing capacity. Thank you governor for addressing these inequities in our community. And now I would like to go into my Spanish. [foreign language 00:18:59]
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (22:35)
Thank you very much. Happy to take any questions.
Speaker 3: (22:37)
Okay, governor, I’ve tried to clump them into subject areas. So first question from Craig Wall and also from Marianne A. Hern. Can you respond to the federal lawsuit filed by the Western Illinois pastor claiming his first amendment rights have been violated, and that the governor appears hostile to churches by not allowing them to gather? He plans to hold services Sunday. What is your reaction to that?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (23:03)
Sure. Well first of all, so many of the pastors and faith leaders across the state have been partners with us and working with their parishioners to make sure that they’re staying at home and staying safe. And I’ve been grateful for their partnership in that. These are difficult times for parishioners and for those of us who worship to not be able to access sometimes in person your faith leader, especially as anxiety has come over people. Coronavirus is a very serious infection that’s in the air. It’s around us, and it’s caused people to need that kind of counsel.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (23:46)
Most faith leaders have found new ways to connect with their parishioners on Zoom conferencing, holding services by Teleconference. And I would encourage people to continue to do that. And I would just urge the faith leaders who are concerned about the length of this to just put the health and safety of their congregants first. I think that’s upper most in everybody’s minds, certainly upper most in my mind. And I would have everybody focused on the fact that we’re still climbing this ladder of hospitalizations and ICU beds being filled. And until we get to the other side, even according to president Trump’s plan, we really can’t begin to open up until we have 14 days of down cycle of those numbers. And so we’ll continue to work at that and make sure we do the right thing following the suggestion of the president’s plan.
Speaker 3: (24:44)
But reaction to the lawsuit specifically and the charges that his first amendment rights are violated, and really how far will you go to enforce the stay at home if he says he’s holding services Sunday?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (24:56)
We’ve asked everybody to do the right thing. And as I say, parishioners and their pastors really have done the right thing across the state. So this person is a bit of an outlier, but everybody has the right to sue. And we’ve seen in multiple states now people have filed lawsuits on various things having to do with the stay at home order. But we’re going to keep doing what we need to do to keep people safe.
Speaker 3: (25:20)
Well to that, we’ll stay in this general subject matter because there are a lot of questions about this. Question from Greg Bishop at centered square. Several counties have either a sheriff or a state’s attorney saying they won’t enforce your orders. Why should other counties think your orders are enforceable if other areas are refusing to enforce?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (25:42)
Again, I would point people to the fact that people are still getting infected. More and more people are ending up in the hospital, and more and more people are dying. We had 141 people die today, and not all of them were in Cook County or Chicago. Some of them were in downstate Illinois. And it’s important for us just to pay attention to the fact that until we get to the other side of this, once again, I would point to president Trump’s plan and their suggestion put together with national experts that we really need to be extraordinarily careful until we begin to see those numbers subside.
Speaker 3: (26:19)
I have to follow up, and that is if people are starting to push back and saying, well, we’re not going to enforce this. We’re going to let people get away with going to church, for lack of a better phrase, by the way. Those were my words. Are you going to instruct the state police or enforce state’s attorneys and district attorneys in various counties to double down, or no?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (26:50)
What I’m doubling down on is the fact that all the people who live in those counties are being put in harm’s way by those who are putting gatherings together of any sort that are going to potentially infect others. And I’m doubling down on the idea that the health and safety of the people of those counties and of all across our state is at risk when people don’t follow the recommendations of the scientists, the doctors, the epidemiologists who are telling us that until we see a subsidence of these hospitalizations of infections, you heard there are more than 2000, I think 2500 infections detected today.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (27:31)
And that’s just a small fraction of those people who are in fact infected, who don’t know that they are because we haven’t been able to test everybody. But we know that there are many, many people out there that are presymptomatic, asymptomatic, and yet have coronavirus. So if you put one of those people in a room full of parishioners, you run the risk that you’re going to get a kind of exponential run of this disease, of this infection rather, through a crowd of people that you love and care for.
Speaker 3: (28:02)
But I guess what I’m just directly asking is on behalf of all these folks is will there be repercussions if there is a blatant defiance in other counties of your stay at home order?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (28:14)
Nobody’s going to run in and break up a gathering of churchgoers at that moment. But I will tell you that there are consequences. Of course, the state has the ability to enforce orders, but we’ve been looking to people to do the right thing and they should do the right thing. And I think the parishioners, by the way, ought to do the right thing and ask those who are faith leaders either not to hold those services or simply ask that they have something online that they can connect to rather than the potential for being infected.
Speaker 3: (28:47)
Last question in this broad realm for now, and then I’m going to move on to another subject matter. This is from Amy Jacobson who writes verbatim: Smart public policy is not doing only what scientists say. You as the governor have the power to convene Illinois lawmakers, some who are not pleased with the 30 day extension. Don’t you think other voices from around the state representing their constituents need to be heard as well? Does the legislative branch have any role to play in this crisis, or does the executive branch have total control?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (29:20)
Well, if Amy had read the executive order, she would see that the legislature has the ability to meet. It is an essential organization and under the executive order, I know that it’s very difficult, and I’ve said this multiple times, to get 177 members of the legislature plus their staffs together somewhere. And that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means it’s extraordinarily difficult, especially with all the processes of legislature. But this is something the legislators themselves will have to work out.
Speaker 3: (29:53)
Moving on to another subject, at least for now. There’s a series of questions about unemployment, several from my newsroom, my colleagues, several from other newsrooms. So I’ll start broadly with questions.
… colleagues, several from other newsrooms, so I’ll start broadly with questions from ABC 7. Every newsroom is still getting dozens of complaints from concerned people who are having trouble, in a lot of cases, simply getting online to certify who are hitting roadblock after roadblock on the phone system. Any specific progress you can report in terms of overcoming those obstacles and any specific online updates that you can give us?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (30:30)
Yeah. Our online capacity has improved measurably. There’s no doubt the systems started out unprepared for this unprecedented level of filings, but at this point, I must say the ability to connect online is available to everyone. If they’re having trouble for some reason, if they’ve filed earlier, forgotten their password, unable to get a password retrieval or something like that, they may need to call in. We’ve expanded the number of people who are available to take those calls. There’s no doubt there also people who no longer qualify for unemployment because either they filed a fraudulent form earlier, or there are some challenges to the veracity of certain aspects of the forms that they filed. There are a lot of reasons why somebody might not be able to get through, but I will say that the systems themselves are actually operating reasonably well, given that what we started with was a 10-year-old system that’s been, as I said yesterday, one that you’ve had to sort of build the plane while you’re trying to fly it with a lot more passengers than usual so to speak.
I understand that one phone number that folks might need to call in had glitches or was not working properly, but with the call in question, if I recall correctly, you previously stated you can only add so many call takers for unemployment claims because of federal training requirements, et cetera. Why not redirect and train other types of state employees like Department of Motor Vehicle Workers, et cetera, to help process unemployment claims while they can’t do their regular jobs right now? Is that something that you can do and should do?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (32:13)
It could have been done, but it would’ve had to start a while ago, because the training that someone gets to work at the Secretary of State’s office is very different than the training that it takes under federal guidelines to work at an IDES office to take an unemployment claim.
Is it something though that you could start that process now, being that we could be weeks?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (32:31)
Oh, we’ve moved people. There are many more people answering phones today than there were when this whole process started. There’s no doubt about it, and we continue to try to build on that with IDES employees, but I will say that that department has over many years not been funded particularly well. The systems haven’t been upgraded, so it started out in this difficult situation. There aren’t a lot of resources people to draw upon, but we’ve drawn upon everyone that we can within the department to bring them all to front lines to answer these. It’s very difficult, I must say. Many of them are working overtime, weekends and so on to get done what they need to, and I will say that we’ve processed many, many claims. I think you may know. I talked about it a little bit ago that more than 800,000 claims have been processed already, which is a ginormous number. It’s a significant multiple of any time before, even back in the Great Recession. We’re actually at a decent point at IDES getting claims processed, and people that are having have had extraordinary difficulty now should be able to get through.
Is there a virtual unemployment call center, if you will, now? Is that up and running where staffers can work from home? Is it still in the works? If it is, when will it open?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (33:49)
We have IDES employees working at home, and we have an offshoot for people who have questions that aren’t of a nature that require that federal training. That is a separate call center effort that we’ve been setting up.
From my colleague at CBS 2, Tara Molina, she did a story yesterday about KeyBank, which provides the debit cards for folks free of charge, but there have been some serious issues with those debit cards in that people aren’t getting them in the mail in some cases, and then they have no recourse. Her question, a couple of them, we continue to hear from those people having those issues. They’re waiting on KeyBank’s line for help with the debit card or holding for IDES or on the line for IDES for hours with no answers. What can you do to help those people through action taken directly with IDES and KeyBank? What is the nature of the state’s contract with KeyBank and have you put any pressure on KeyBank to make this better for Illinois and to up their game?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (34:58)
Yeah. I think the answer is really the same and that’s that IDES has this relationship with KeyBank and is in fact working with them. They’re a partner to the extent that you put pressure on partners to operate better, faster, more efficiently. That is what IDES is doing with KeyBank, and I absolutely encourage people to continue to connect with KeyBank when they’re having trouble with those cards, because they are issued by KeyBank. IDES is attempting to get them to work out all the glitches and make sure that people’s calls are answered.
So IDES is aware now? You’re aware that there are problems?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (35:34)
They are, yes. Absolutely. Yeah.
Okay. One last question on unemployment from me. You brought it up. I’m doing a story on it again today about penalty weeks. I know that one state lawmaker in a working group yesterday, and I understand all the reasons for penalty weeks, although many will say it was a mistake, it was misunderstanding, but they’re hurting as you know, these folks. She discussed the possibility of looking into legislation to waive penalty weeks or defer them, which would be a process, but again, do you have any thoughts on if that is something that should be vigorously pursued?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (36:08)
Yeah. It’s certainly worth looking into. I would tell you that the federal government has to make changes to its rules in order for that to happen, but I think if the legislature wants to take this up and pressure the federal government to make changes, I that’s absolutely within their purview.
I know some other states are doing that or looking at that. Okay, moving on. Mary Ann Ahern says Indianapolis and Marion Counties folks in Indiana announced that even though the stay at home order in Indiana has not been extended, so in other words, it lifts tomorrow, Marion County has announced it will not lift its own state at home order until May 15th. Could there be similar protocols in Illinois?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (36:56)
There are other orders that exist in Indiana and other states, and it is true that a county or even a local government can have more stringent rules than the state has imposed. That is what’s going on in Indiana and in some other states, and I know that there are places like here in the city of Chicago where there are some more stringent rules than we set out from the state imposed upon the city of Chicago. I mean, that the city has imposed upon itself.
From Elizabeth Matthews at Fox regarding the Indiana stay at home order, so with tomorrow being May 1st, as of right now, some businesses are planning to reopen in Indiana. For example, some shopping malls, some that might not be far from Illinois’ border. What do you tell Illinois residents itching to get out of the house, drive across the state to enjoy some shopping or something else that is open there that is not here. What would you say?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (37:49)
Listen, there are always going to be opportunities for people to avoid the rules and to gather in large groups. What we’ve told people, and you’ve seen pictures of parties like in the city of Chicago happening where people are doing things that they shouldn’t be doing and that we know are dangerous for them. I would just say that people need to use the common sense that mother nature, God gave them to not gather in those places, to wear masks, to keep six-foot distancing, to not participate in activities that will put themselves and very importantly their families when they come back from those places in danger.
Speaker 4: (38:29)
Dana, how many more do you have?
I have one. I’m trying to be as organized as I can. One, two, three, four.
Speaker 4: (38:35)
Okay, can we make them quick?
Oh, I’m trying.
Speaker 4: (38:38)
We have like 40 online.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (38:39)
I’ll try to give them a quick answer.
All right. Some are quick questions. This one I’m reading from Michael Coolidge, WROK Radio in Rockford. He repeats some of the things we’ve already discussed about other counties not enforcing, but I’ll get to his question here where he says. “Do you still …” Sorry. “What do you say?” I’m sorry here. Gosh, I’ve lost my track. “Do you still believe all of these officials who disagree with you are simply grandstanding, or will you consider allowing local authorities to modify your new stay at home order making it less restrictive, not more, locally? Do they know what’s best for their local areas or do you believe you do?”
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (39:23)
Well, let’s start with when he says all of these local officials. There are a few, and we’ve talked about them before. What we’ve tried to do is to follow the science, and I would encourage those who are thinking about breaking the rules to follow the science too. Again, what we know is that people put themselves at risk when they don’t wear masks, when they gather in large groups. We know that people who are going from place to place and who are asymptomatic and not following any of the social distancing are putting other people at risk, and we know that in Illinois we’ve seen the number of infections that come from one person who’s infected go down over time, right? How many people get infected from the one infected person has gone down significantly over time.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (40:15)
That’s not an accident. It doesn’t happen by nature that it went down, it went down because people stayed at home. It’s because people are following those social distancing rules. I would just suggest to anyone that is considering breaking those rules that they’re really putting their citizenry in danger, and I would just point out also to those in Rockford, since he’s from WROK, unfortunately, Rockford is a hotspot in the state. Winnebago County has quite a number of infections, and it’s something that we’re watching very closely, and it’s why people who live in that area and in the surrounding counties need to be extraordinarily careful.
Related, can you comment on the five Republican congressmen who sent a letter to you asking for regional reopening, and you perhaps I believe had had a conversation with them as well. Can you characterize that?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (41:10)
I did. Actually, we had a terrific conversation with the entire congressional delegation. I heard from, I think three of the five Congressman who spoke up and had questions, three of the five Republican congressmen, and it was a good dialogue. I don’t disagree with them that that different areas of the state require a different rules during this time. That’s why we made some changes you see in this new executive order that goes into effect tomorrow. The state parks are not in Cook County and Chicago, right? The idea that people can get elective surgeries is much more available in areas outside of the Collier Counties and Cook County because more infections exist just by the numbers in this area. So elective surgeries, state parks, golf courses and so on, many of the things that we’ve opened up just in this executive order that only is in effect for a month here is an indication, indeed, of my recognition and our recognition that it’s different from one area to another. We’ll be talking more about that as we put forward plans for reopening.
Okay, last two. From Stacey Baca, ABC 7. A protest today called on you to lift the 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act and allow individual jurisdiction to deal with the rent issue. What is your stance on this and lifting that ban?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (42:32)
Yeah. As you know, this is a state law that’s in effect that the legislature can make a change to, and I know that many people have come to Springfield to talk about doing that. For me, I want to make sure that people can pay the rent and that they’re not being pushed out from gentrification from their communities, so I would like to see changes made, but it is something the legislature needs to do.
Okay, and finally, Mary Ann Ahern. New York’s governor and the city’s mayor announced they’ll shut down mass transit overnight for deep cleaning. Any plans on talking to various mayors and cities to do that here?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (43:11)
I think it’s a good idea, and I know I heard Governor Cuomo talking about that. I would say that that’s something that the mayor of the city of Chicago certainly should lead. We want to make sure that people are safe taking mass transit and figuring out what the right schedule for cleaning is. I know they’re doing some of that now. I don’t know on what schedule, and I would encourage them to look at that, because as we open things up, more and more people are going to take mass transit, buses, trains, et cetera. They need to know that when they’re taking it, they’re safe. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (43:40)
Okay. We’ll get to questions from online. Casey Toner at BGA. I was wondering whether the state was doing any testing or monitoring of heroin users because of their high risk behavior and congregation with other high risk users.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (43:50)
That’s something you can help with, Dr. Ezike, about heroin users.
Dr. Ezike: (43:57)
So I have heard from different substance abuse homes who are providing recovery support, so that is a thing that is essential and obviously needs to continue. Their concern is that they have PPE needs as well, so that PPE need is not exclusive to hospitals and nursing homes, but anyone that has a congregate care setting where people live, recreate, eat, dine, all in the same place still have that risk of a rapid spread of the virus once it gets in. Those are essential services, and I’m glad that our providers are continuing to give that essential care. In terms of the numbers increasing, we know that this is a very stressful situation for every individual, I guess worldwide, so in stressful situations, we know that that can result in some maladaptive behaviors being further increased.
Dr. Ezike: (45:02)
Maladaptive behaviors being further increased, so not surprising that there might be additional episodes or instances of substance abuse. There’s additional probably mental health challenges that are also seen and so we were grateful for our caregivers who are helping in those areas.
Speaker 5: (45:21)
Dr. Ezike, you can stay there because the next couple are few. This is from Greg Heinz at Cranes. He would like a response to the dropping rates of positivity and COVID tests that has happened in the last week.
Dr. Ezike: (45:31)
Yeah. So again, when we initiate… We’ve gone through many evolutions of the testing criteria. I mean if we go way back to January, February, the testing criteria involved, having a contact with somebody from Wuhan and having specific symptoms. As we have relaxed the criteria, obviously we are still we’re still targeting our high risk individuals, people who are on the front lines.
Dr. Ezike: (46:01)
If you were working in a grocery store or a pharmacy, but we potentially, as we increase the number of tests, you will potentially have people who have not had as high contact as maybe someone who’s working in the ICU 12 hours a day with COVID positive patients.
Dr. Ezike: (46:18)
You might see some decrease in the positivity rate, but it is really important that we identify people as quickly as possible, so we will have that lower positivity rate, but be grateful for the ones that we identify.
Speaker 5: (46:30)
Then the CDC is reportedly saying there are far more deaths in Illinois than recorded. How many could there be? That’s from Dave Dahl at WTAX.
Dr. Ezike: (46:39)
Again, these are kind of speculations that we try to use our data and make the most informed decisions we did. The way to try to get at that number is to look at the number of deaths that we’ve had in this period and then try to compare the amount of deaths that we had in the same time in previous years, and I have looked at that.
Dr. Ezike: (46:58)
We do see that compared to 2018 and 2019 the deaths that we’ve had from the period of March to April 15th are significantly higher for this 2020 time, and so when we take out the number of deaths that we know are COVID related, we still have additional deaths that we can account for, so one supposition could be that there are additional deaths that we have missed, but again, we don’t have the details on all of the deaths in real time like that. It Takes several months, so again, we can make speculations that there are additional deaths.
Speaker 5: (47:36)
Rich Miller at Capitol Fax, when does the state plan to start widespread testing of workers and essential businesses, especially retail establishments and factories. Factory outbreaks could disrupt supply chains and retail outbreaks could threaten lots of workers and customers.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (47:51)
As fast as possible. I guess I’ll expand and just say that today as you saw we reported about 13,200 tests were done. We’re averaging about 13 or 14,000 for the last week, which is up significantly, almost double perhaps the week before, and we intend to continue to do that.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (48:12)
Remember we have 6 million workers in the State of Illinois and although we wouldn’t be able to test every worker every day, you do want to have the ability, not only to surveillance test but also to target your testing to the most vulnerable communities and people who work in those vulnerable settings.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (48:32)
Not to mention those who live in vulnerable settings, so the numbers need to significantly increase before we can actually test many more people. What we can do though, however, is make sure that as we reopen these facilities, speaking of, I think manufacturing was on that list, that we’re keeping people six feet apart, that we’re doing our best.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (48:55)
Everybody should be wearing a mask. There are various rules that we’re working with IDPH on, to make sure that those kinds of businesses can reopen safely, even if we couldn’t possibly test every worker every day.
Speaker 5: (49:11)
Kelly at Block Club, we know it will be difficult to reopen restaurants and bars in Chicago’s eateries have been left out of federal programs. What will the state do to ensure these businesses are able to remain open? Can it pressure the feds for more funding?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (49:23)
We can pressure the Feds for more funding and we are. I have been working very hard to do that. We want to be able to stand up a larger state program to support these small businesses. Most restaurants and bars are just small businesses with a few, maybe a dozen or so employees. Many of them have not been able to access that federal money, that PPP money because it takes sometimes a lawyer and an accountant and others to help them do it.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (49:53)
At the state level we provided grants from the department of commerce and economic opportunity. We took whatever money we had available to do that and now we’d like to be able to provide more, and that’s something that will be dependent in part on the Federal Government supporting the state, which we’re working hard on, and also working with the legislature to create a larger program.
Speaker 5: (50:14)
Trudy at Bloomberg has a couple of questions on the air bridge. When, if at all, has Illinois used the Federal air bridge to bring back PPE from China? Why and for what? How were the goods that come on the air bridge sold? Is it based on pre-existing pre-pandemic contracts and pricing and auction or some other means?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (50:31)
It’s my understanding this is how the air bridge works. It is not intended to bring goods to the State of Illinois or to the City of Chicago. That’s not how the air bridge works. How it works is it was designed by the White House to… And when we say air bridge it’s cargo planes and what they’re bringing over are the PPE that are going to be… That are handed over to existing distributors of medical supplies who have an existing set of customers, some of whom are in Illinois, some of whom are not in Illinois, so those goods get distributed by those private businesses as they see fit.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (51:11)
Also, some of the air bridge capacity is bringing over PPE that’s going to the federal stockpile and the needs of the Federal Government, our military, for example, so I want to clarify for everybody. The air bridge really does not supply the state or local governments.
Speaker 5: (51:33)
This question is from Carter at WAND. According to DOC, Governor Pritzker has commuted the sentence of 20 inmates. Of those 28 are murderer or involuntary manslaughter. Of those 26 of those are serving life sentences, and of that 2011 had years left on their sentence. The Governor has said in the past, most of the people being released, they would have three to 12 months left, but the DOC documentation says differently with some having several years.
Speaker 5: (51:57)
Can you explain why there is a discrepancy and with such violent criminals being released, how do you ensure public safety? When commuting sentences has the Governor himself reviewed the recommendation from the PRB or does he sign off on recommendations without reviewing the file himself? It seems like there’s some confusion over what clemency and then releases.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (52:13)
Right, so I want to make clear to everybody that there are a lot of people who are released from prison because their sentences came to an end. Then there are people who are in the final six or nine months of a term of a sentence and we’ve had the Department of Corrections director looking at only nonviolent offenders and seeing if there are opportunities at this moment to release people early on good time, so that we can allow people who are nonviolent offenders to have a slightly shorter sentence but for the purpose of making sure that we’re keeping the staff at corrections and the prisoners themselves safe.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (52:58)
That’s most of what we’re talking about when we talk about releases from our prisons. The few that the questioner is asking about are people who petition for clemency directly to the Governor. They do that through the PRB, the Prisoner Review Board. That’s a board that reviews these cases and votes on them and makes recommendations and even provides information because they have hearings and discuss those cases and then they are recommended to me from them, and then I make a decision based upon those recommendations.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (53:34)
Those members of the PRB are very responsible people. Many of them have been on there for several years before I became governor. Their recommendations do have an enormous influence on me and very important to me is to make sure that anybody that we are releasing, fits a set of criteria that minimize any risks to communities.
Speaker 5: (53:57)
Shia Politico. Governor, the president is ending federal social distancing policies, leaving it up to the States and conservatives here are fighting you on the stay at home order. How are you pivoting to adjust to all of that?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (54:08)
To the challenges? How am I pivoting to adjust to the challenges-
Speaker 5: (54:13)
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (54:13)
… of it? Yeah. Look, we’re staying the course here of making sure that we’re keeping an eye on the health and safety of every Illinois and wherever they live, whether they live in far Southern Illinois, in Cairo or in Vienna or live in Freeport or Rockford and everywhere in between, and guess what, just because they don’t live in Chicago or Cook County or the Collar counties does not mean that people are not in danger, and that’s why I’ve been very careful looking at the numbers all across the state by region to make sure that as we look at reopening, we’re extraordinarily focused on the details of each region.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (54:55)
I’ve listened to many mayors, many have written plans for their region that they wanted me to see and we’re taking all of that into account as we talk to our epidemiologists and scientists to look at a phased in plan reminder to everybody that it was actually the White House that put out at least the first plan that I had seen that looks at, when and how could you reopen the nation’s economy.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (55:26)
Again, a reminder that what that plan put together by the president under his leadership and Vice President Pence’s says is that an area has to reach a peak and then have 14 days of reduced numbers, hospitalizations, et cetera, and then you can begin with phase one, phase two, phase three under that plan. We’re following a lot of that guidance as we put our own plan for Illinois together.
Speaker 5: (55:52)
Dan Patrola. Can you clarify in what situations people will have to wear face coverings while outdoors beginning tomorrow? Should people have one on hand if they go out for a walk or a jog or a bike ride around the neighborhood?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (56:03)
I would suggest having one on hand. Again, it could be a tee shirt that’s made into a face covering. It doesn’t have to be a specific surgical mask or other kind of mask, but something that covers your nose and mouth. You don’t have to wear it at all times if you’re going running, jogging, outside or bicycling, but if you encounter a crowd, a public space with a lot of people in it, that’s when you need to, are required to put on a face covering and of course going to a grocery store, a pharmacy where you know you’re going to run into other people. We’re requiring face coverings in those circumstances also.
Speaker 5: (56:42)
Molly Parker at the Southern Illinois and will be our last question for today. She’s got a couple. If there’s a detected outbreak at a food manufacturing factory, does IDPH suggest testing for all employees? When is a shutdown recommended, not just meat, but any food manufacturer, and is the state tracking outbreaks at essential food manufacturers? What are you seeing?
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (56:59)
I’m going to ask Dr. Ezike at IDPH.
Dr. Ezike: (57:04)
Sure, so yes, we are tracking all outbreaks throughout the state and we’ve had outbreaks that every type of facility has been meat processing plants. It’s day cares, it’s churches. We’ve seen them in every single type of setting, so we obviously start with the local. The local health departments are the boots on the ground. They are our first line of support for these facilities that are in their locale.
Dr. Ezike: (57:31)
We are always ready to assist. In certain instances, we have pulled in the CDC or NIOSH specifically that deal specifically as an arm of the CDC that deals with occupational safety of workers, and so being able to identify definite strategies that need to be employed to help keep the workers safe, and also how to temper such outbreaks, so that goes on, on a regular basis with any of the outbreaks that are identified. Did I answer all the questions? Okay.
Speaker 5: (58:03)
Thanks. Thank you everyone.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (58:03)