Mar 19, 2020

Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 19

Illinois governor covonavirus March 19
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsIllinois Governor J. B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 19

Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker gave a March 19 COVID-19 update to the state. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… members, their friends, their neighbors who are practicing social distancing. Older adults will experience even more social isolation during this time because they are unable to get out to their normal activities or go to the places they congregate for fellowship. Showing genuine interest in others, sharing positive news, bringing up memories, and through simply doing a phone call can enhance our relationships. And in times like this, it’s essential that we support one another and show compassion to those who need it. I like to call it, using compassionate common sense. So thank you again to everyone who continues to assist with our mission of aging in place. We are always here to support our older adults today as well as tomorrow. Thank you. And now I’d like to invite Rob Carr up from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to the podium. Thank you.

Rob Carr: (01:02)
Thank you director. And on behalf of the industry I represent, I’d like to also extend our condolences to our fellow citizens, to the families of the fellow citizens both in Illinois and across the nation who we’ve lost this pandemic to date. Governor, I’d also like to start by thanking you, your senior staff, your entire administration for their cooperation, inclusiveness and communication throughout the crisis that we face to date. I’ve been at this over 25 years and I’ve never seen the level of responsiveness and cooperation from top to bottom as everyone has teamed together to try to remove the obstacles that are in our way to help make the lives better for all of our citizens. We are pleased, the retail industry is pleased to support the Governor’s call for senior hours. Many of the grocers had already begun to implement, but many, many more have been added.

Rob Carr: (01:49)
Our list has grown from just over a page to four pages and counting just within the last 24 hours. Senior citizens who wish to check on that list can do so at our website, www.urban.org, it will also be on our social media channels. And grocers and, frankly, other retailers who wish to be added to that list can email us and we’ll be happy to add them as well. And then finally, Governor, I’d also like to thank you for the concerns you’re showing for the small employers throughout the State, as well as their employees who are among the many who are bearing the burdens and the brunt of the necessary decisions that you and others have had to make. And so we appreciate your leadership on this and we look forward to continuing to help. And with that I refer back to Governor Pritzker.

J.B. Pritzker: (02:32)
Thank you.

J.B. Pritzker: (02:36)
Happy to take any questions. I want to remind you today that we’ve got reporters that are actually on a teleconference line. They have the ability to ask questions over that teleconference. I’m going to ask my press secretary, Jordan Abudayyeh to run that process for us, if you would, sir. First time trying this, so bear with us.

Speaker 4: (02:58)
So we’re going to start with reporters in the room and then we’ll go to the reporters on the line.

Speaker 5: (03:00)
Governor [inaudible 00:03:02]?

J.B. Pritzker: (03:09)
I’ll turn it over to Dr. Zika to talk about the nursing home patients, or residents rather.

Dr. Zika: (03:16)
So yes, without getting into specific-

Speaker 7: (03:17)
[inaudible 00:03:19].

Dr. Zika: (03:18)
Without getting into specific details, yes, we have had additional nursing home residents that have been in these counts, and so, again, specific attention has been veered towards them with aggressive monitoring of their situation and intensive measures that we talked about before. The pre-shift assessments for all the staff that come to work every single shift, as well as the visitor restrictions which remain in place. [crosstalk 00:03:48].

Dr. Zika: (03:53)
On that home, I don’t think there were any individual cases. Thank you.

Speaker 8: (03:58)
[inaudible 00:03:58] Governor talking, please look at your phone right now [inaudible 00:04:00] thank you.

Speaker 9: (04:03)
[inaudible 00:04:03] fatalities, were they nursing home residents? [inaudible 00:04:06]?

Dr. Zika: (04:11)
No, none of these fatalities were associated with the nursing home. Thank you.

Speaker 9: (04:14)
And Governor, are you looking at any kind of shelter in place, monitor shelter in place for the State? And then also Indiana has extended school closures to May 1st, are you considering something that here, what should parents be thinking about in terms of April?

J.B. Pritzker: (04:31)
As I’ve said at most of our press conferences, I’m looking at all of these things. Literally every day we’re contemplating, what are the moves that we need to take based upon the guidance that we’re given? I know that there are discussions at the federal level and, frankly, among the advisors that I have, who are some of the experts in the world that are here in Illinois that would guide to this is going to take longer than people have expected. And so we’re listening to that guidance and operating based upon that every day.

Speaker 9: (05:06)
Any med school closures [inaudible 00:00:05:08]?

J.B. Pritzker: (05:09)
Again, I think that obviously we’ve set a deadline, a date by which we think that students would go back. But I also think that parents should be contemplating the possibility that might be extended.

Speaker 10: (05:24)
The number of cases total 422, is that correct? [inaudible 00:05:29].

Dr. Zika: (05:30)
422 [inaudible 00:05:30].

J.B. Pritzker: (05:31)
422 cases.

Speaker 10: (05:33)
[inaudible 00:05:33] 136 cases. 136 plus 288 [inaudible 00:05:38].

Speaker 4: (05:36)
We will clarify the numbers for you.

J.B. Pritzker: (05:39)
Yeah. We’ll make sure we get it right for you.

Speaker 11: (05:41)
Governor, in terms of the small business loans, can they start applying right away? What needs to be shown to the bosses [inaudible 00:05:49] turnaround time for actually getting money [inaudible 00:00:05:52]?

J.B. Pritzker: (05:53)
At the website that I talked a little earlier, that’s where people will have the ability to apply. And I don’t want to go through the details of what their requiring at the SBA for those disaster loans. But I would point out to you, that as you can imagine, the restaurants and bar owners are suffering. We’re only three days into the closure of the restaurants and bars. And those folks are, every day that’s gone by, they’ve suffered losses. And as you know, that closure is extended all the way to March 30. So people are going to have some significant losses. There are many restaurants that have under $750,000 of total revenue during the course of a year. And profitability at restaurants varies, but it can be relatively low percentage profitability. And so people are truly suffering. So these SBA loans will be an enormous help to them and I’m grateful to our federal partners, especially our federal representatives for getting this done.

Speaker 4: (07:01)
Craig hold on. [inaudible 00:07:00]-

J.B. Pritzker: (07:05)
Craig.

Craig: (07:05)
Governor, what is the threshold, or what would officials need to see for you to actually make a judgment that a shelter in place order were necessary?

J.B. Pritzker: (07:14)
Well what’s interesting, Craig, I’m glad you asked the question of, what are the triggers for us making decisions? Honestly, look, my expertise is not as a scientist or as a doctor. And so epidemiologists, as well as those who are experts in public health, are those who I rely upon both here in Illinois. And we have some of the best in the world here in Illinois. And I’ve also called others around the nation so that I can better understand what are the things that they’re looking at. Many of the people in this field are very, very concerned that the United States is not doing enough. I think you’ve heard that on television. And when we talk about bending the curve, we say it like everybody understands. But what we’re talking about is making sure that we don’t end up in the situation that Italy is in.

J.B. Pritzker: (08:04)
So when I make decisions about this, this is about, how do we operate faster and better than Italy? And then other countries that have seen this grow exponentially for a very long period of time. And so we’re trying to stay ahead, be ahead. Illinois has been one of the first States to move on these things. Many other States have really followed by days after us. And I’m going to continue to listen to the experts to do the right thing that the triggers are really in what the experts are seeing. And remember, there’s another part of this, because there’s so few tests that have been done even across the United States, we’re really relying upon not only the tests that come in, but also the statisticians and mathematicians who are taking the test data and extrapolating from that what probably will happen based upon what’s happened in so many other countries. Even ones with very advanced medical infrastructure that are very much like the United States.

Speaker 4: (09:10)
Jerry, you’re going to be the first person on the phone to ask your question.

J.B. Pritzker: (09:27)
We’re not hearing a question from Jerry.

Speaker 4: (09:34)
Okay. We’ll give Dan with the Tribune.

Dan: (09:40)
Got it. Thanks.

J.B. Pritzker: (09:44)
Is that Dan?

Speaker 4: (09:47)
Dan [inaudible 00:09:47] you can ask your question.

Dan: (09:50)
We can’t really hear what’s going on here. Has somebody already asked about shelter in place?

J.B. Pritzker: (09:56)
Yes, they have asked about shelter in place. So I won’t repeat the answer but, but suffice to say we’re evaluating every day.

Dan: (10:04)
Question for you then. Let me know when you’re ready for it.

J.B. Pritzker: (10:09)
I’m ready. Thank you.

Dan: (10:12)
Okay. Can you talk any more about the National Guard testing site, where those will be and how that will be conducted?

J.B. Pritzker: (10:23)
National Guard testing sites is the question for those in our audience online. We are working with the federal government. The federal government is standing up, by the way, drive-thru testing. We haven’t seen that yet in Illinois, but we have drive-thru testing, but it’s not the federal government’s version of that. And so we hope to see that sometime soon. Instead, we’re having our National Guard be part of efforts to help hospitals and other healthcare centers stand up those drive through capabilities. So we’ll be using National Guard to assist other healthcare workers in that endeavor.

Speaker 4: (11:11)
Okay. Dave Doll, you’re up next.

J.B. Pritzker: (11:18)
Dave Doll.

Speaker 4: (11:26)
Okay. Tony Arnold, how about you?

Tony Arnold: (11:32)
I’m wondering about what guidance you can give to schools, or parents for that matter, about when they could expect to be back in school?

J.B. Pritzker: (11:45)
Well the guidance that we’ve given is that school would resume March 31st. And there had been a question in the room, for those who didn’t hear on the telephone, about whether that might be extended. And the basic answer is that we’re obviously evaluating that every day. I would say to parents that they should obviously be planning for the possibility that there would be an extension of that date. But right now we’re sticking with the March 31st date.

Speaker 4: (12:18)
Dana with CVS, you’re up.

J.B. Pritzker: (12:19)
Dana.

Dana: (12:21)
Okay, thank you. I have a question about the cases and the rise in cases. Actually, from someone on Twitter. Are the cases rising because, or being diagnosed, because there’s more testing? Or is it because it is spreading more quickly, or both?

J.B. Pritzker: (12:38)
Right now the case numbers are appearing to rise so rapidly because we’re testing more. We have increased testing substantially. When we were beginning testing, we were at about 200. We were at about 200 tests per day at the very beginning. We’re now over 1,000 per day and we’ll be increasing that to two plus thousand in the next few days. And then I believe we’ll get to a number that’s much higher than that in the days after that. So that’s why we’re starting to see an increase in the number of positives. But no one should mistake that fact for the idea that we’re not seeing a significant increase in the number of people who are contracting coronavirus, COVID-19. Because that also is happening. And we know that in part because the work that the mathematicians, the statisticians, are doing looks at where the cases are, how the cases are being contracted by others.

J.B. Pritzker: (13:49)
And it’s, frankly, four out of five new cases that get reported, nationally this is, four out of five of these cases are people who contracted it from someone who had it but didn’t know they had it and exposed other people to it. So if you didn’t know you had it, well there are lots of people who’ve never been tested who have it and aren’t showing symptoms. Who are carrying it around and giving it to other people. So we know this is growing substantially. And until there are more and more tests, we will be in this situation of just seeing the numbers rise because the testing is rising. We hope that there will be a cresting that you have seen, frankly, in Asia now. In some countries in Asia there’s been a cresting because they’ve implemented some of the measures that we have implemented here. We’ve done it earlier here, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to see a lot of cases of COVID-19. And frankly more deaths.

Speaker 4: (14:57)
Brian [inaudible 00:14:57] with NPR.

J.B. Pritzker: (15:04)
Brian.

Brian: (15:04)
I’m here. Hi there, thank you. I [inaudible 00:15:06] I heard you mention the National Guard potentially retrofitting and reopening some previously closed hospitals. Is that work under way? [inaudible 00:15:14] given what the federal government does not do and make sure we [inaudible 00:15:20].

J.B. Pritzker: (15:23)
Thank you for asking. The question was about what we’re doing to stand up more hospital beds and more capability to serve patients across the State. So first of all, we had to inventory what beds were available, what hospital rooms are available across the State, and what the expectation is about just the other cases. Remember there are people who have heart attacks and have other injuries that they need to be treated for who are in the hospital. And there will continue to be some of those too. So we’re trying to project, we’re looking at what’s available now. And then we’re looking at all of the available other opportunities for us to increase hospital beds. There are two types of hospital beds that we’re looking for. And I say beds, I mean rooms and the ability to serve the people that are in those rooms.

J.B. Pritzker: (16:17)
So two types. One is those who are COVID-19 positive who need to be treated for COVID-19. And then there are those who have some other illness that they’re in the hospital for and they will need a bed. And we’re trying hard to stand up more of both of those types of beds. The more that we can alleviate the existing infrastructure of a non-COVID-19, the more likely we are to be able to serve the vastly increasing population of those who are tested positive for COVID-19. So we are, as I say, we’re reopening hospitals. We’re looking at all the hospitals right now, inventorying how to reopen them. So we’ve got people on site in many cases looking at, remember there’s plants and equipment that you have to turn on. It isn’t just as easy as turning the lights on. And then we’ve also got to have the healthcare personnel to move into those hospitals to make sure that we’re serving people properly.

J.B. Pritzker: (17:22)
And then there are existing surga centers and other places that have the potential to provide beds for people that aren’t normally places that would just accept a COVID-19 or other kind of a patient. So we’re, again, outfitting those folks, but they also have nurses and doctors that are on staff. And so they have a little more capability to begin with altogether. So we’re working hard with all the hospitals too. And you know, that we no longer have elective surgeries going into our hospitals, so that alleviates many of the beds. It also, frankly, puts a financial burden on the hospitals themselves who subsidize other care by doing elective surgeries often.

J.B. Pritzker: (18:12)
So anyway, that’s a lot of what we’re looking at, and we’re going to continue to look at even more expansion that may include things like literally building a field hospital in Illinois and in various places. We’re also looking at, how do you alleviate some of the intake that goes on at a hospital for people who really don’t need a bed? Sometimes they are put in a bed anyway, or were a month ago or two months ago. How do we alleviate some of that? Who could really convalesce, for example, at home and not be in the hospital. And just evaluating, what does that look like? How do we encourage that?

Speaker 4: (18:55)
Shia with Politico.

J.B. Pritzker: (18:55)
Shia.

Shia: (19:01)
Hi Governor, thanks for taking my call. So we keep hearing that Governor Cuomo seems to talk to President Trump every day. I’m wondering, have you talked to the President one-on-one? And if not, why? And if yes, what have you talked about?

J.B. Pritzker: (19:17)
Well the federal government… The question was, do I talk to the President as frequently as Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York? The reason that the President talks to certain State Governors more than others is because that’s where the bulk of the cases are, right? In New York and Washington, for example. As a percentage of their population, they are seeing a lot of cases, and frankly a lot of deaths. And so I believe that that’s how the President may have prioritized his time. I have the ability at any time to reach out to the President, he has offered that to me directly. I have talked more often with the Vice President. This is now, I don’t know the number of times now, but several times directly. But I also want to point out to you that many of the people who work under them, and really in the agencies, I’m talking about the assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, the secretary of Homeland Security, those are people that I talk to more regularly any way, because they’re on the ground, at least closer to being on the ground and delivering what we need.

J.B. Pritzker: (20:32)
Because it’s sometimes an order or somebody at the top says something, I’m talking about the President or the Vice President. And then it goes through a bureaucracy and takes too long. Sometimes that happens. And so I, in many cases, have just called directly to the person who’s in charge of the thing that we need in order to get it. So I’ve been willing, I don’t need to wait to talk to the President I’d rather just go get the job done.

Speaker 4: (21:03)
Trudy with Bloomberg.

Trudy: (21:07)
Thank you. Governor Pritzker, [inaudible 00:21:09] what are your expectations for longer term economic cost for Illinois and the fiscal cost for the State due to COVID-19?

J.B. Pritzker: (21:19)
Well there is no doubt there is an enormous cost that everybody in Illinois is bearing for the economic damage that is coming from COVID-19. This is not just the sickness, the cost of healthcare, it’s also the cost of jobs. We’ve seen many, many layoffs, many people who have joined the roles of unemployment and Medicaid. And so the cost is enormous. And that’s why every day I have been in touch with not just our elected federal representatives from Illinois, but many of the other leaders in Washington. Yesterday I spoke for about 10 or 15 minutes with the speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi. And expressed what we need here in Illinois from them, what kind of legislation we would hope and expect that they would get passed for us, and how we would want it crafted so that it benefits Illinois. So there is a lot of… There’s no doubt about it, this is going to have a significant economic effect on Illinois. And we are trying to mitigate that damage just like we are trying to mitigate the virus itself.

Speaker 4: (22:41)
Marianne.

J.B. Pritzker: (22:45)
Marianne.

Speaker 4: (22:51)
All right we’ll do Dave Doll back on the line.

J.B. Pritzker: (22:55)
Dave Doll.

Dave Doll: (22:57)
I’m here. How do you read me?

J.B. Pritzker: (22:59)
We can hear you. Thank you.

Dave Doll: (23:04)
Thanks. Okay, thanks for making this available. Speaking of business and the economy, there’s a group called Illinois Business Alliance which came out today [inaudible 00:23:11] the economy the way it already is going downhill and why this is the worst time for graduated income tax [inaudible 00:00:23:18]. Pull it off the ballot. What do you think of that?

J.B. Pritzker: (23:23)
I would just say, this is not a time for politics. We have too much to do to save people’s lives. We’re not focusing on legislative initiatives other than focus right now on what it will take to provide the healthcare and the unemployment and the services that people will need in what is going be an increasingly difficult moment for everybody.

Speaker 4: (23:49)
All right. Marianne, are you there?

J.B. Pritzker: (23:55)
Marianne.

Speaker 4: (24:01)
All right, thank you everyone on the phone, I think [inaudible 00:24:02].

J.B. Pritzker: (24:06)
Thank you everybody.