May 4, 2020
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Briefing Transcript May 4
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a press briefing today, May 4. Pritzker said hospital space & supplies are holding up as the coronavirus curve ‘bends’ in Illinois. Read the full transcript here.
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J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
ICU numbers and ventilator availability. First, new cases and new tests as well as the percentage of tests that were positive over the last 24 hours. Today, we are reporting 2,341 new cases for a state total of 63,840 cases, which includes many individuals who have already recovered. 13,834 new tests were reported over the last 24 hours. That’s a statewide positivity rate of 17%, though that looks different at different testing centers and across different demographic groups.
J.B. Pritzker: (00:49)
Over the last 24 hours, we’ve also lost another 46 Illinoisans to this virus, a total of 2,662 known fatalities in Illinois since the beginning of this pandemic. May their memories be for a blessing. Now, I’ll get into a few other metrics. But first, I want to remind everyone that snapshots in time alone are not enough to offer a full understanding of where we are, but together they can offer some indication of how things are trending. I’ll start with our progression of statewide hospitalization numbers over the last month. That’s the total number of both COVID-19 patients in the hospital and assumed COVID-19 patients in the hospital in any condition.
J.B. Pritzker: (01:44)
So on April 5th, we had 3,680 COVID patients in the hospital, on April 12th, 4,091, on April 19th, 4,599, on April 26th, 4,672. As of midnight last night, May 3rd, that number had reduced to 4,493. I’ll also offer the same time series progression for our COVID occupied ICU beds and then give you a sense of how many ICU beds are currently available in hospitals around our state by IDPH region. On April 5th, COVID patients occupied 43% of our 2,709 ICU beds. On April 12th, they occupied 39% of 2,991 ICU beds, on April 19th, 40% of 3,134 ICU beds, on April 26th, 34% of 3,631 ICU beds. And as of midnight last night, 33% of our 3,681 ICU beds, which when combined with the ICU beds occupied by non-COVID identified patients leaves about 933 ICU beds available statewide.
J.B. Pritzker: (03:22)
Of course, that ICU bed availability looks different in different parts of our state, so let me offer you a sense of that and how it looks by IDPH region. And those regions, by the way, are designated by their interconnected networks of emergency medical services. These are the regions that preexisted the novel coronavirus. They are, in the Rockford region, 51.5% of ICU beds were available as of midnight and that’s about 86 beds. In the Peoria region, 40.2% of ICU beds were available and that’s about 101 actual beds. In the Springfield region, 54.3% or 82 actual beds. In the Edwardsville region, 27.5% or 25 actual beds. In the Marion region, 27.5% or 41 actual beds. In the Champaign region, 44.9% or 62 actual beds.
J.B. Pritzker: (04:35)
And in Cook and the Collar counties, in the city of Chicago, 16.9% of ICU beds were available as of midnight. That’s 186 actual beds. In the Southwest suburbs, 17.9% or 94 actual beds. In the West suburbs, 15.9% or 77 beds. In the Northwest suburbs, 38.3% or 152 actual beds. And in the North suburbs, 11.9% or 27 actual beds. Now, that’s a whole lot of numbers I know, so I want to remind everyone that if you want to check out our hospital utilization data in your area, you can find that information laid out visually on the IDPH website, dph. illinois.gov. And remember, these numbers fluctuate not just day-by-day, but hour-by-hour.
J.B. Pritzker: (05:38)
Finally, I’ll briefly touch on ventilators. Our medical professionals continue to innovate treatments to help patients avoid the need for a ventilator. Though this equipment can and has saved lives, it begins a very difficult recovery when people are intubated and it’s no doctor’s first choice. That said, we continue to keep our eye trained on the number of Illinoisans with COVID-19 who are on ventilators.
J.B. Pritzker: (06:08)
And from a statewide standpoint, we’ve continued to see a slight downward trend on this metric from 29% usage on April 6th, then 25% on April 14th, then 23% on April 26th. And of the 4,493 Illinoisans in the hospital, 763 are on ventilators and that means 22% of our total ventilator inventory is currently in use by COVID-19 patients. That’s a lot lower than we had expected at this point and it’s because of the amazing work that people have done staying at home and following our executive orders.
J.B. Pritzker: (06:51)
I want to again make a call to our workers in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, law enforcement, and other frontline occupations to help us stretch our PPE stocks further through the use of our new N95 mask decontamination system. That’s currently deployed in Waukegan. This is a fully free service door-to-door. FedEx and Cardinal Health are handling the transport of masks from facilities to the decontamination site and back. And the US Health and Human Services Department is covering all the costs of using this system. Each mask can be contaminated up to 20 times without experiencing any degradation of filter performance. So, I want to encourage facilities that have masks to send them for decontamination to our Waukegan facility.
J.B. Pritzker: (07:50)
I highly encourage people to take advantage of this equipment that’s being provided through IEMA. And again, it’s fast, it’s free. It will help us help you by freeing up PPE as we’re acquiring it from abroad. IEMA is ready to assist with the signup process for your facility and they’re available 24/7. To register, these facilities must enroll at www.battelle, B-A-T-T-E-L-L-E.org/decon. Again, that’s Battelle, B-A-T-T-E-L-L-E.org/ decon, D-E-C-O-N. Before we move to press questions, I want to let everybody know that today kicks off Teacher Appreciation Week. Educators have long been a special type of unsung hero dedicating their lives to giving the next generation the tools they need to build a better world. And now in this pandemic, millions of teachers have stepped into new roles as meal distributors, as tech support staff, 3D printers, YouTube stars, lesson innovators. They’re only human doing their best to do their jobs and to see their students through an unprecedented situation. And by and large, they’ve shown us their extraordinary compassion and creativity and I’m so grateful to them.
J.B. Pritzker: (09:18)
To all the educators watching, thank you for stepping into a role that you may never have expected that you would need to fill, all the different roles that you’re filling right now and I’m so very grateful to you. If you’re not a teacher, but you know one, I hope you’ll take a moment to thank them today, call them, send them a note online. A few kind words goes an awfully long way, so I would appreciate if you’d reach out to them today. Thank you. And now I’ll be happy to take any press questions. Dana.
Hi, governor. The first one is from my colleague at CBS2, Chris Tye. Yesterday, the pastor at the church in Lena, Illinois had services with dozens of people attending. Will Illinois State Police enforce the court ruling next weekend or will you request the county do something to enforce that order?
J.B. Pritzker: (10:06)
We have always asked local law enforcement, local officials to enforce these orders. And the best way to do that, of course, is a reminder to the pastor and to the parishioners that they’re putting themselves and others in danger by holding a service like this. The pastor filed suit. That suit failed. And it’s because people do have the ability to worship, and we’re trying to simply to keep people safe during this time of a global pandemic.
I’m sorry if I missed it. Will you urge local officials both in Chicago, which was going to bring me to my next question, and in any other county that is defying the gathering, the stay-at-home and the gathering order of no more than 10 people, will you urge authorities to step in and do something more than disperse?
J.B. Pritzker: (10:58)
What we’re asking them to disperse. I mean, that’s the most important thing. We just don’t want people getting sick, nobody.
J.B. Pritzker: (11:03)
It’s not an intention that people will go to jail. I will say however that if people are persistently defiant, they can be put in jail. And I’m not suggesting that that’s the best answer or the first to answer, but it is something that’s an option for local law enforcement.
And following up on that, a question from Eric at ABC7. There were nearly 1000 CPD dispersals over the weekend, but zero citations and you, of course as you just said, you defer to local authorities. But what’s your reaction to that number of dispersals in Chicago and what do you feel needs to happen? And does it concern you that this could lead to a resurgence if this continues?
J.B. Pritzker: (11:45)
It does concern me. And people should really understand that if our numbers flatten and get better and that’s where we seem to be at right now, it’s because people have followed the rules. And to the extent people are not following them and gathering in groups, they’re going to spread the virus and they’re going to cause us to go back into a previous executive order or a more stringent lockdown than what we’ve had if in fact there’s a spike of cases as a result of people not following the rules. So again, we want to encourage people to do the right thing. I’m sorry that the police have had to break people up like that. I know that it’s attractive when the sun is out for people to go out and gather in groups. But I want to remind everybody that it’s a mistake. Right now the only way that we can defeat this virus because we have no vaccine and we have no treatment that keeps people out of the hospital, and so the result is the only way we can fight this virus is really by obeying social distancing, obeying the orders that have been put in place.
Would you like to see more citations issued as a deterrent?
J.B. Pritzker: (12:52)
That is not something that I prefer. But as I say, if people are being persistently defiant, I do think that local law enforcement needs to step in. But it’s up to the mayor and it’s up to the local law enforcement to make those decisions.
I’m going to combine a couple of unemployment questions. One from Samantha Chapman at WLS and one from my newsroom and the bottom line is we’re receiving … As I feel I say to you every time I’m here, we’re receiving literally dozens of complaints almost every day about people who can’t get onto the system. They get kicked off the system, no one answers the phone, have debit card problems. And you have said, “Well, we’re updating the system. We’re updating the system.” But these folks continue to tell us, “Well, it doesn’t seem like it.” So what specifically is being done right now to to make sure that the director, the acting director, of IDES is doing what he is supposed do to help these people who are desperate?
J.B. Pritzker: (14:03)
Yeah. So let me begin by saying that we obviously are deeply concerned about anybody that is owed unemployment and somehow can’t file their claim. That is not something that’s intended and we’re certainly trying to work through any problems for people that have been persistently having difficulty. I will say that that the system is … I get the numbers of processed claims every day and the numbers of people who are being processed every day are very frequently in the tens of thousands, which is vastly more than ever before. In fact, it’s a multiple of what even was occurring on a weekly basis, a daily basis during the great recession of ’08-’09. So there’s an awful lot that’s being processed. There’s also a multiple of phone lines that are being answered for people who are calling in. It’s still not enough.
J.B. Pritzker: (15:01)
There are some people that call in persistently, have to wait for some time on the phone before they can get ahold of anybody. Or because there’s a limit to the number of people who can answer phones, they may not get ahold of somebody on a given day. I would encourage everybody to go online. That is how most people are, multiples of people are, actually getting through and filing their claims, so that’s what I would say. I mean, we’re doing the … I will say that the acting director and everybody that’s working at IDES is working overtime to make sure that it’s working as best it can and they are working through … There really isn’t a backlog at this point, so people who are having trouble, there’s typically an issue with their claim, which I understand they need to use … We have online tools that they can use even if they can’t sign up online. There’s a chat function. There’s an ability to message to IDES to let them know what your issue is and have somebody get back to you about it. And I would just say one more thing, sorry. Dana, just that later this week we’re going to review where we are with unemployment so you’ll have a much better, more holistic view of how we’re doing and what we’re doing and what we’ve done to address these issues.
Have you ever thought of having the acting director Chan come here so we could ask him questions directly?
J.B. Pritzker: (16:21)
I haven’t, but I’ve been focused as you know here for the most part on the directly addressing the virus.
Of course. Question from Craig Wall at ABC7. Thoughts on people who have been going into Indiana over the past few days for services they can’t get here. Your reaction to that?
J.B. Pritzker: (16:41)
Again, I think to the extent that people are not social distancing and accessing services in which Indiana may have decided that they want to open those things up, understand that there are risks associated with that and I would discourage people from doing it. But understand that people are free to do what they want as they may leave the state. I don’t control the state of Indiana and they don’t control Illinois, but I’d rather be from here than there.
A question from Mary Ann Ahern. Even Governor Cuomo today says he’s looking at opening regions of New York State on May 15th. Will you consider reopening regions? And if so, what is the criteria?
J.B. Pritzker: (17:25)
Yeah. So we’ll be talking more about that, but suffice to say that I absolutely think will the state as we have a lot of different areas of the state, different population densities and so on. The most important thing though that I have pointed out to people is to think of the state not in the typical way that you think about regions, but rather about healthcare regions, to think about how many hospital beds. And that’s why I talked today about how many hospital beds does a certain percentage availability mean because a spike in one area that happens to have 25 hospital beds available or 25 ICU beds available, if there’s a significant spike in that area, 25 is not a big number. And so what we want to make sure is that we were able to handle a spike because that’s what potentially could occur if we reopen things too fast.
J.B. Pritzker: (18:14)
And as to the setting a date, it sounds like another governor set a date for … I will say that it really needs to be based on data and metrics. My guess is knowing that governor that he was really talking about hoping that that might be a date in which they could do it, but you really need to do this based on the data and that’s what we’re following very closely. And I want to open it as fast as anybody does. I just want to make sure that we’re doing it in a safe fashion.
Follow up question with that and the data in mind, do we have to wait until May 30th to hear what your phased in reopening plan is? And could you disclose some of the details before May 30th or do you plan to?
J.B. Pritzker: (18:54)
You don’t have to wait until May 30th. Certainly we’ve been thinking about this and working on it for some time now to make sure that we’re going to give people a view into how the phases might work and how many phases there are and what would work in each phase.
Okay. Sorry, I’m trying to-
J.B. Pritzker: (19:15)
My pen ran out so my normal organization method went out the window. Question from Amy Jacobson at WIND radio.
Speaker 1: (19:23)
Okay, Governor Pritzker taking more questions from reporters and you can watch that at wcia.com. Interesting. The last question that he took was talking about reopening regions and the reporter asked, “Are we going to have to wait until May 30th to hear your phased plan of when the state could reopen?” And he said, “No,” they’re working on that right now. And so hopefully we will hear what that plan to reopen parts of the state will look like before May 30th. He said that decision needs to be based on data and metrics and not just looking at the the regions as you normally would say Cook County versus downstate. He’s looking at it in terms of medical regions.
Speaker 1: (20:06)
And he did give out some of those numbers today in terms of talking about ICU bed availability across the state. 54% of those beds are available in the Springfield region. In the Champaign region, 45% of ICU beds are open. Compare that to Chicago and the collar counties and those numbers are in the teens. They did more than 13,000 tests in the past 24 hours with a 17% positivity rate. Here are your numbers. Around 2300 new cases, bringing us to a total of almost 64,000 total cases. 46 people lost their lives in the past day, total deaths 2,662. And for more of that regional information that I know you guys are looking for, I encourage you to go to the public health website. It’s broken down by gender, by race, by regions and that’s idph.gov. Locally, we want to tell you that 20 employees at the Rantoul Foods pork processing plant have tested positive for the coronavirus. We will have more on that on our later newscasts. So thank you so much for being with us. We’ll have, like we said, much more at 5, 6, 9, and 10. We now bring you back to your regular programming.
J.B. Pritzker: (21:29)
… this full piece of it. This is a hall B, which has been designed to have negative pressure in the rooms for more serious COVID patients. That hall would be the last thing that gets taken down.
But has there actually been physical removal of some of the beds?
J.B. Pritzker: (21:46)
I believe so. I know that’s the intention and I haven’t seen pictures or gotten an update recently, but that’s certainly the intention that the hall that had 500 … The first pictures that everybody saw, which was hall C, had 500 beds erected in five days. Because remember, the curve was not-
J.B. Pritzker: (22:03)
… bending at that time, and so those are being taken down.
Okay. One more question from Amy Jacobson. There’s hundreds of thousands as we know, of Illinoisans out of work. Many she says, want to become contract tracers. Where and how do they apply?
J.B. Pritzker: (22:21)
Yeah, so we’ll be giving that information shortly. We want to make sure that we have a system that’s up and running for accepting those applications for contact tracers. We’re very much looking forward to building up a workforce of thousands that’ll help us.
Another question from Eric at ABC Seven. Are there any regions of the state where the R nought, it’s the figure I guess you use to calculate rate of spread. Okay. Where the are the R nought is below one, and if so, what are those areas? And again, as I’ve asked might those areas begin to open before May 30th, but what are those areas?
J.B. Pritzker: (23:01)
Yeah, so we aren’t doing enough testing across the state. Now we’re, again, I want to remind everybody we’re the second most amount of testing among the top most populous states, the top 10 most populous states, so we’re doing a lot of testing. But no state is doing enough testing. We need to vastly increase the amount of testing that we’re doing. Again, even though we’re doing a lot. But it takes a lot of testing in order for us to get to an R nought number, but we do have a statewide number because of the number of tests we’re doing statewide. That number is down to about 1.2. We’re certainly trying to keep track of what’s happening in each and every region so that as things are coming down, more things can be opened up.
A question from Greg Bishop at Center Squared. Is reopening the state’s economy conditional on the implementation of a mandatory tracing program, or for the mandatory tracing program to be completed? And if so, how long is that anticipated to take?
J.B. Pritzker: (24:02)
I’m not sure what Greg means by a mandatory tracing program, but the tracing program, the contact tracing program is being worked on and built up. Its completion is not a precondition to phases. But contact tracing is critically important for certain industries especially, to make sure that if people can’t maintain social distance in some circumstance, then it’s a situation in which we would need a lot more contact tracing for that kind of an industry, to make sure that people aren’t spreading it asymptomatically. So it’s, I understand the question. It’s not a mandatory contact tracing program, but it is a program that will help us to diminish the spread, and we are trying to work spin it up as fast as possible.
Another question from Greg. What’s your recommendation for local governments eyeing revenue losses? Should they be laying off staff and cutting budgets now, or should they follow the state’s example of no furloughs and no immediate cuts?
J.B. Pritzker: (25:12)
Well, I think, a lot of assumptions in there. I’m not going to tell local governments what they should do to meet their budget requirements. But what I am doing is working hard to make sure that in Washington, that they understand the damage that’s been done to all the states and to all of the local governments. And particularly smaller local governments, which really didn’t get very much out of a previous CARES Act. We need to make sure that we’re helping them so that they don’t, remember it’s easy to say, “Well gee, you should furlough a lot of people in order to deal with their budget problem.” But remember what happens in a pandemic like this. We have a decreasing amount of revenue coming in and an increasing need by people for the services that states and local governments offer. And that’s why we need help from the federal government to preserve those services.
From Barb Markoff at ABC Seven. One of the plans being floated to reopen the country is to pivot our focus on protecting everyone, to focusing on the most vulnerable. Is that something that you are considering as we continue to proceed throughout the month of May?
J.B. Pritzker: (26:20)
Well, we are protecting everybody. Everybody’s life is valuable. But I will say that we already are making extra effort for those communities that are most vulnerable. You’ve heard a lot about what we’re trying to do to protect people in congregate settings, which are often the most vulnerable, right? These are people who are physically or developmentally disabled. They’re people who are elderly and may have other existing underlying conditions. You’ve seen that we’ve spun up more testing in areas where there are a large African American populations or large Latino populations which have a propensity to have comorbidities or a higher rate of positivity. So we’re working on those populations that are most vulnerable even now. And we’ll continue to do that as we begin to open things up.
And I think what she meant was, might there be a shift as we move forward from the stay at home for all to making sure we focus on the most vulnerable only as a part of a reopening?
J.B. Pritzker: (27:25)
Well sure. I mean, I think we’re shifting. That shift, when you say shift, I’m not going to shift away from protecting everybody, but this idea of shifting the stay at home and saying only these people have to stay home. I guess that’s, everything is evolving. That’s what I would say. And obviously at some point we’re not going to have the same order in place that we have now and we’re going to be loosening things up. But as we do that, we’re going to be still paying extraordinary attention to those who are elderly and in these congregate settings. I didn’t mention, of course, the staffs in those settings and even in our prisons, the staffs in our prisons as well.
A question, it circles back to McCormick Place from Charlie Wojciechowski at NBC Five. Regarding McCormick Place, was it too much, too soon, or a necessary precaution?
J.B. Pritzker: (28:18)
You know, it was interesting. If you go back to the day that we talked about the stay at home order on March 20th, and Dr. Emily Landon stood here, she said the most remarkable thing about the success of a stay at home order is that nothing happens. You know, and that’s really, this is a function of, guess what, a lot of people didn’t get sick and a lot of people didn’t die. And so that’s what it means that we have, that we spun it up because at the time we didn’t know whether we’d be bending the curve properly, and it turns out we have. And so thank goodness, and I said early on, my prayer is that we won’t have to use McCormick Place or any of the alternate care facilities. And it’s still my prayer. I want everybody to understand we’re not through this yet. The virus didn’t go away. It’s still out there.
There are some wondering where Dr. Z is today.
J.B. Pritzker: (29:22)
She had a family matter, so she’s with them.
Well I will ask you this last question from Mary Anne Ahern. It was for the doctor, but, there are health regions with low positivity rates. You’ve touched on this. Do you recommend reopening those regions?
J.B. Pritzker: (29:41)
Yeah. Again, those are going to be pieces of how we think about each region and what can open, so thank you.
Speaker 3: (29:47)
Okay, Hannah at The Daily Line. According to movement tracking data from Google, most of the stay at home behavior changes asked of Illinoisans like not going into workplaces, avoiding public transit, going to grocery stores as little as possible, already happened in early March. If social behavior is now on the rise because of warmer weather and loosened restrictions and the new stay at home order, and Illinois’ R nought value is still above one, how can we be sure we will ever get to an R nought value below one?
J.B. Pritzker: (30:14)
Other places that have put in a stay at home order have gotten to an R nought value under one. We’ve headed in the right direction. We’re moving in the right direction still, and as to the point about the R nought starting to move or people being less mobile let’s say in early March, I’d just point out that the news about Coronavirus was out there. Remember that some of the first moves that we made in the state of Illinois occurred in early March in the first week, a week-and-a-half of March, and so people began to see that this virus is out there, that people are getting sick and I think they reacted naturally to that. And then I think that’s evidenced by the way of how smart people are in our state and the fact that people have followed the stay at home order’s other evidence of how terrific the people of Illinois are.
Speaker 3: (31:03)
There’s legislation being introduced in the general assembly that would cancel rent for those who cannot pay it subject to the establishment of a housing relief fund that would in theory mostly be paid for by a second federal stimulus bill. Is this something you think would be wise to count on from Congress? Is there anything the state can do proactively either through state police or the attorney general to prevent landlords who are ignoring the moratorium on evictions and evicting tenants?
J.B. Pritzker: (31:32)
I’m not aware of the specific piece of legislation that’s being referenced here but, but I am very much in favor of alleviating the burden on renters across the state. It is true that Illinois, the budget situation for Illinois makes it extraordinarily difficult to provide a lot of relief, but we do have rent relief programs at the Department of Human Services and we do want to do as much as we can with the federal dollars that we receive, to alleviate the burden, particularly on working class families.
Speaker 3: (32:07)
This is from Rich Miller at Capital Facts. He’s asking for your reaction to the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association warning that municipalities and businesses that reopened in defiance of the EO could face litigation, and also your reaction to the Illinois Department of Insurance statement that says businesses run the risk that an insurer could find reason within the policy language to deny COVID-19 related claims. What could potentially happen to state-licensed businesses if they reopened in defiance of the EO?
J.B. Pritzker: (32:35)
Well, I was a businessman before I became governor, and I have to tell you that I would not want to defy the executive order because I believe that I would be taking on liability if I did that.
This is from Carter W-A-N-D and Decatur. Governor, the mayor of East Peoria announced today that he is opening the city in phases starting this Friday. It will include salons. This goes against the stay at home order and the recommendations of IDPH. Is there a concern that this could cause more cases?
Will the state step in and prevent this? What about people traveling from nearby communities and then returning home?
J.B. Pritzker: (33:10)
Yes, if some of the businesses in East Peoria are opening, I think they’re running the risk that they’re going to infect people who work there, infect people who patronize their stores, and in defiance of this stay at home order, it strikes me the point that we were just talking about insurance, not covering you, you may have business insurance, but you will be subject to liability because it would not surprise me if insurance companies are found to not be required to cover you when you are defying essentially state law or state executive order.
Sam at NPR, Illinois. Companies like Apple and Google have volunteered their tech to help with contact tracing. Has your office been in contact with any reps and do you have any privacy concerns in enlisting their help?
J.B. Pritzker: (34:01)
So I’m very much aware. I think some of you know, when I was in the technology business so I’ve followed it pretty closely, and I’ll just say I we’re looking at the technology that’s being proposed. It poses some questions about privacy. It’s not something that we’re currently looking at as part of the program that we’re building for contact tracing. But I’ll want to see more as the technology is presented and developed.
Hannah at Block Club. Based on what we saw this weekend, people are expanding their quarantine circles. What advice do you have for people who want to do this? Is seeing young, healthy family okay? What about grandparents? Or should people absolutely avoid this at all costs?
J.B. Pritzker: (34:47)
I’m sorry, is the question that families are getting together and quarantining together that weren’t?
I think it’s that people are expanding the people that they’re seeing. So would you say that seeing your healthy family members is okay?
J.B. Pritzker: (34:57)
So I just will remind everybody again, and this is … I think we all know, we’ve been in this situation for what, about seven weeks now? I’m not sure how many weeks since March 21st. For a little while longer it’s very important that people who are asymptomatic, you feel fine, but that you stay away from people who you have not already been in close contact with and that you not quarantined together with them because, just because you are asymptomatic does not mean that you do not have a coronavirus. So I again, for a little while longer as we await the development of a treatment and you saw that one was already approved, although it’s only for severe cases, but there are 70 of those being tested by the FDA or looking for approval by the FDA. So I would just stay away from your elderly relatives, in particular, and don’t quarantine together with people that you haven’t already been around.
Jim Haggerty at Rock River Times. Governor, some small businesses have told us they may not survive the economic blow COVID-19 has delivered. Do you foresee any industries in Illinois that will no longer exist because of this crisis?
J.B. Pritzker: (36:19)
I don’t know. I’m hopeful that that’s not what’s happening, but I can see that so many people are suffering. It’s why I’m such an advocate of not just the PPP program, but so many supports for small businesses because we want people to come back and reopen their doors and we’re going to do everything we can in the state to have that happen. Small business people are the bedrock of business, bedrock of job creation in our state, so they deserve our support.
Dave Dahl at WTAX. Governor, we know the speaker of the house and the president of the Senate called sessions, but you have the power to call a special session. What have you thought about doing that? Why or why not?
J.B. Pritzker: (36:59)
Yeah, I think the most important thing is that the legislature gets together safely and like I’ve said before, 177 members of the general assembly plus staff, that’s an awful lot of people. That’s more than 10 getting together. So the epidemiologists would express concerns about a group that large. Having said that, there are ways to do it, we helped to provide support to the legislature as they have asked how could they do it safely? And we’ll continue to do that. We want the legislature to get together and they have the ability to get together and we’re providing again, epidemiological advice about how to do their best to keep everybody safe.
Molly Parker at the Southern Illinoisan. Tennessee announced last week that it will begin mass testing of staff and inmates at state prisons. It appears Illinois has only tested about one to 2% of inmates. Is this adequate? Will you follow a Tennessee’s lead and begin widespread testing in prisons and jails?
J.B. Pritzker: (37:56)
The more testing we have available to us, the more we will be testing in all those congregate settings. But remember, we also have nursing homes, we also have these developmentally disabled homes, and so many other areas that also need testing. So again, it takes a lot more testing than we have today.
Dave McKinney at WBEZ. Can you address the significance of today’s death total being the lowest since April 19th? Also, what reaction do you have to Saturday nights federal court ruling in the Beloved Church case?
J.B. Pritzker: (38:25)
As to the number of fatalities today, I would just encourage everybody to look at these things on a multi-day basis, taking maybe a three, five or a seven day average. I’m hopeful, when I saw this number today, I was hopeful that this was the beginning or a continuation of a trend that I’ve been praying for. But I think one day is not a helpful number to look at.
J.B. Pritzker: (38:52)
As to the ruling in the case of the church. I want to remind that it’s important to get together with your fellow parishioners and your pastor, but we’ve asked people to do that in groups of 10. We’ve asked pastors to reach out to their parishioners and try to do that online, or get in small groups, Bible study in a small group. Again, socially distant. We’ve provided other suggestions of ways that people could get together to have services, but getting together in groups of more than 10, I think I read that there were 60 or 80 people that got together at that one church in defiance of even the US federal court ruling, is an enormous mistake and I am very hopeful that we aren’t going to need to send teams in to do mass testing among the people who may be spreading the virus in their community.
Shia at Politico. Governor, we heard today the mayor is still advocating for a Chicago casino. Do you think that’s still a possibility and what are some options you and the state legislators are considering in making that happen?
J.B. Pritzker: (40:01)
Well, I’ve favored getting that done. I think it’s the right thing to do. It may be difficult to do in the next month. I don’t know, in the next few weeks. It depends on when the legislature gets together and how, I will say that we have a whole year here with which for the legislature to get together to handle legislation. I think as we again see more treatments available and as we have testing and tracing and PPE available, it will make it a lot easier for the legislature to get together throughout the year. Maybe in one day increments, just to keep everybody safe, not needing to stay overnight and room together and all of that. But there’s, there’s a lot of the year here with which to address something like that.
J.B. Pritzker: (40:47)
As I understand that the Republican leaders are in favor, at least, I’m aware that the house Republican leader is in favor of that casino, that Chicago casino bill. I know there are a number of Democrats who are too. So I would hope that we’d be able to get that done sometime during the year here.
[Tam Decharl 00:08:08] at the Tribune will be our last question. How are the occupancy limits at stores being enforced and how well do you think people are complying with the new face covering requirement after the first few days?
J.B. Pritzker: (41:18)
Yeah, it’s really just a visual survey about face covering and occupancy of stores. So I don’t have a report, an official report of that. But I will say just as I look outside, as I see people walking on the street or in small parks or whatever around Chicago, I have seen that … I think the numbers seem to me to be about 70 to 80% of people are wearing masks or they’ve got a mask with them that they don’t have on their face because they’re not around somebody else. So I think that’s pretty good adherence, although I’d love it if everybody would do it.
J.B. Pritzker: (42:02)
Remember that if you have a mask, you should wear the mask when you’re meeting up with people on the street and even walking by them on the sidewalk, it may seem like, “Well, gee, I’m just passing by. How could I possibly catch coronavirus by walking by somebody?” Well, guess what? Coronavirus can be aerosolized as people cough or breathe or talk. So it could happen. So I just suggest that if you’re taking a walk down the street and you know that there are other people that are coming toward you on the sidewalk, it’s best if both parties, if all parties, are wearing masks and face covering. So thank you very much.
Ben Bradley: (42:39)
The state’s daily update includes 46 additional deaths in the last day, 2,662 people have died from COVID related health problems since this outbreak began. Testing continues to rise leading to an additional 2300 confirmed cases today. One more note about fatalities. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the city surpassed 1000 deaths. Just under 4,500 people are hospitalized statewide right now with COVID symptoms. The Northern suburbs, they continue to have the fewest available intensive care beds, just 27, as of right now.
Ben Bradley: (43:16)
The governor was also asked today about his decision to stand down the makeshift hospital that he built at McCormick Place. Fewer than 30 people have been treated there in the last month. Pritzker calls that a sign that his stay at home order was successful in curbing the projected infections. We, of course, will have complete coverage of all of the day’s COVID related developments and the other news of the day beginning at four o’clock and don’t forget, you can join Dina Bair for our nightly recap of the day’s COVID developments. That’s at 10 30 right here on WGN. I’m Ben Bradley, hope to see you back here for the news in about.