Mar 31, 2020
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript March 31
J. B. Pritzker: (00:00)
I also have two special guests with us, Brad Cole, the former mayor of Carbondale, who’s also now the executive director of the Illinois municipal league. Tim Drea, who hails from Taylorville, born and bred there and is the president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. And we are joined once again by Dr. Allison Arwady, the director of the Chicago Department of Public Health. To the 1000s of people across the state who have been joining us every day via live stream, welcome back and to anyone joining for the first time, thank you for your desire to get factual information on what’s happening here in Illinois. To our reporters, thank you for your commitment to truth and accuracy. Folks, I know that this journey is an extraordinarily difficult one, personally, financially, emotionally. I know that when I signed our disaster proclamation on March 9th when restaurants and bars closed on March 16th, when schools suspended onsite learning on March 17th, when the stay-at-home order took effect on March 21st. Well, each step we have been forced to take by this pandemic has made things more challenging for our residents.
J. B. Pritzker: (01:27)
The cascading consequences of these steps weigh on me every minute of every day, but as I’ve said since the beginning, my priority through each and every one of these decisions has been and continues to be saving as many people’s lives as possible. That’s the one goal that I will put above all others every time. Most critically, I have let the science guide our decisions. I’ve relied upon the top medical experts, scientists, public health researchers, epidemiologists, mathematicians and modelers from the greatest institutions in the world, like the university of Illinois, Northwestern university, University of Chicago, SIU and others whose guidance on infection rates and potential mortalities and protective measures is frankly second to none. It is based upon that advice that tomorrow I will be signing an executive order to extend Illinois disaster proclamation or stay-at-home order and our suspension of onsite learning at schools through the end of the month of April.
J. B. Pritzker: (02:41)
If we can end these orders earlier, I’ll be the first one to tell you when we can start to make strides toward normalcy again, but that time is not today and it’s not April 7th. Illinois has one of the strongest public health systems in the nation, but even so, we aren’t immune to this virus’ ability to push our existing capacity beyond its limits. We need to maintain our course and keep working to flatten the curve. Here’s what we know. As of March 30th, our preliminary reports from hospitals statewide show just 41% of our adult ICU beds are empty, staffed and ready for immediate patient use. A two percentage point decrease from the moment in time numbers that I ran you through last week and 68% of our ventilators are available statewide. A four percent point drop in a week. That doesn’t mean that every hospital has that availability, but collectively, that’s what we have across the state.
J. B. Pritzker: (03:49)
Statewide, about 35% of our total ICU beds are now occupied by COVID patients, and about 24% of our total ventilators are occupied by COVID patients. We’re still within our capacity and we’re working every day to acquire new ventilators or convert alternate use ventilators to increase that capacity. But from all the modeling that we’ve seen, our greatest risk of hitting capacity isn’t right now, but weeks from now. The virus’s spread is growing, so are its risks. We must not let up now. I’ll remind everyone that these interventions don’t work if they’re piecemeal across the state. It was only a few weeks back when we had just a handful of cases all in one County. That’s up to 5,994 across 54 counties. And we know that there are even more people out there who have contracted COVID-19 and already recovered without realizing it or recovered at home and never qualified for a test.
J. B. Pritzker: (05:02)
That’s true in all 50 States. And that’s the price that we will continue to pay for the lack of early robust national testing. So we have to stick to the knowledge that we have. No community is immune. To that point, I want to discuss our efforts to keep our department of corrections facilities as safe and socially distance as possible to minimize the spread of COVID-19 within those facilities. Fortunately, DOC is at its smallest population since 1995 and it currently has 36,944 individuals. That’s 1069 fewer prisoners than on February one of this year. On March 14th early in the process of my issuing executive orders addressing COVID-19 to reduce the spread of the virus, DOC suspended all visits, moved all facilities to administrative quarantine and ensured access to hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to all staff and incarcerated individuals. IEMA and IDPH have made multiple deliveries of Personal Protected Equipment to the Department of Correction, totaling over 160,000 N95 masks, over 200,000 surgical masks, and 10s of 1000s of gloves, and DOC is sending an additional shipment to Stateville today.
J. B. Pritzker: (06:38)
DOC has been reviewing the case files of as many low risk offenders as possible for early release during this crisis, with nearly 300 more released as of one PM today. This is included some of our female inmates who are pregnant or were in our women and babies program as well as low level offenders at the end of their sentences. All have been thoroughly vetted to make sure that there are no histories of violence and particularly domestic violence and all had homes to return to. I should note that places to reside for exiting offenders are one of our greatest challenges. We need to ensure that each person released in this manner has a place to return to and those arrangements are more difficult for exiting offenders during these challenging times. We’re working hard to balance the need to free up as much space in our prisons as possible with making sure that we’re not releasing those who may pose a risk to their communities.
J. B. Pritzker: (07:43)
Every step we take with regard to our prison population needs to solve an existing problem, not create a new one. I signed an executive order to suspend the daily flow of convicted transfers from county jails into IDOC facilities and my office is working with the department of corrections to review the histories of all of our inmates to prioritize the release of older and more vulnerable residents while ensuring the public safety. Under the order, the director still has discretion to accept transfers from county jails when necessary and he will exercise that discretion. Tragically, we have lost one patient to COVID-19 at Stateville prison. The maximum security prison that’s closest to the Chicago area with 32 total positive cases among those in custody and more results pending. We have 18 staff members who have tested positive, who are employed at various Department of Corrections facilities.
J. B. Pritzker: (08:48)
The DOC is working diligently to prevent further spread by requiring all staff on duty to wear personal protective equipment and by opening parts of the facility that were closed to allow for further social distancing. We’re using every mechanism available to us to prevent and contain the viruses spread in our department of corrections facilities, including standing up temporary facilities for an onsite medical mission with our national guard. But I want to be clear, despite these measures and any and every one of our DOC residents who falls seriously ill with COVID-19 will receive available medical assistance to get through it, including an ICU bed and a ventilator if necessary. An incarcerated person is a person and my administration will not be in the business of claiming one life is worth more than another. I want to say to the local hospitals that are near the prison facilities, we will do all that we can to ensure that patients receive the best care that we can provide.
J. B. Pritzker: (10:02)
And we will work with local departments of public health to get you all the equipment and support that we can. But hospitals that refuse to take on residents of the Department of Corrections will be called out by name and those that refuse to operate in accordance to their oath can and will be compelled to do so by law. We are asking everyone during this extraordinarily difficult time to do their part, to keep residents, all residents of Illinois safe. We inherited a prison system that has suffered from overcrowding after decades of tough-on-crime policies focusing on punishment without attention to rehabilitation. Democrats and Republicans agree on this and have worked together over the last number of years to make real changes. And while we have prioritized support services for the men and women in our care, we’re still operating in facilities that were not built to support these efforts.
J. B. Pritzker: (11:06)
When we get through this immediate crisis, we all need to have a real conversation about criminal justice reform and the status and conditions of our state prisons. But I’ll be frank with you, we still don’t know exactly when this immediate crisis will pass. And I know this continues to be an extraordinarily difficult time for families across our state, especially for our workers. I have directed my governor’s office staff and agency directors to do everything and anything in our power to help our residents who are hurting. We’ve directed 10s of millions of dollars to support our small businesses in impacted industries and offered sales tax payment delays wherever we can. We’ve expanded support for individuals through the ban of residential evictions, a delayed income tax filing deadline, increased unemployment eligibility, and worked to expand our Medicaid and SNAP programs. There are countless, unseen people in state government who are working behind the scenes day and night, seven days a week to find every possible mechanism to support our working families and I promise you, we will not stop until this virus passes.
J. B. Pritzker: (12:23)
Lastly, I want to talk about what this extension means for our students. Well first and foremost, I want to recognize the creativity of our Illinois State Board of Education and the superintendents and the school districts all across our state for their remarkably able and agile efforts that they’ve demonstrated. Providing learning opportunities, meals, connection and stability throughout this crisis. Under this extended order, schools will transition from Act of God Days to Remote Learning Days. All of these days count toward the school year and absolutely no days need to be made up. Each district is working with ISBE to create and implement a Remote Learning Plan to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, receive instructional materials and can communicate with their teachers. Remote learning will look different for every district and maybe even for every school. School districts will create plans based upon their local resources and their needs. ISBE recommends any grades that schools give during this time be used as feedback and not as an instrument for compliance.
J. B. Pritzker: (13:42)
Students are going through a situation over which they have no control. Our first response must be empathy. I want to end with a message for our students who I know never envisioned a pandemic derailing their spring semester. Believe me, as a parent of two teenagers, you’re not the only one. I won’t try and tell you that texting and calling each other as the same as hanging out in the hallways or in the lunch room, and I won’t try and tell you that a Zoom prom is the same as a real prom. I won’t try and tell you not to be sad about the lost goals and plans that you may have had for March and April. It’s okay to be sad and if you do feel sad or frustrated or angry, whatever you feel, please let yourself feel that way. Don’t beat yourself up over being human. And if you’re experiencing overwhelming anxiety or you have a friend who is and you need someone to talk to, there are resources available to you by phone and online through both ISBE and our Department of Human Services as well as the city of Chicago.
J. B. Pritzker: (14:56)
But I also want to say something else. Once you’re ready, take a look around. Take in the incredibly unique moment that you’re living in. Yes, it’s scary and it’s uncertain and it’s difficult, but if you’re looking for a lesson in the fundamental goodness of people and of your community, it’s right there in front of you. Take a look at the districts across the state that have taken it upon themselves to support our healthcare workers, like Tinley Park High School’s science department delivering goggles to Advocate Health’s Christ Medical Center, or Decatur Public Schools donating over 200 iPads to promote contactless communication at area hospitals. Maybe those are your teachers and administrators, or maybe your school is one of the many that have made donations. Even if it’s not, I bet people in your school are finding a way to help. Be one of those people. Or look at Michael Arundel, an Orland Park native home from..
J. B. Pritzker: (16:03)
college while classes are out at the University of Alabama where he’s studying to go to medical school someday. He came home and he saw a need where his elderly relatives and neighbors were afraid to go to the grocery store, so he filled that need by creating Leave It To Us, his free service to go grocery shopping for senior citizens. Orders took off and his network of mostly college aged volunteers is now launching service in five other states nationwide. Michael, thank you for your movement, the movement that you have started. All of Illinois is proud of you. And I want to encourage our elderly Chicagoland residents as well as healthy young people across the state looking to join Michael and start a local branch of their own to visit his website. It’s at covidseniorshoppers.com, covidseniorshoppers.com. And most of all, look at the people who make up our healthcare workforce, our doctors, our physicians assistants, our nurses, our nurse practitioners, yes, but also our hospital social workers, EMTs, pharmacists, our ER technicians, registration staffers, sanitation services, and the food service workers who keep patients fed. Maybe you call one of those people a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a friend. Maybe someday that’ll be you. I can tell you that they didn’t join this profession looking to fight a pandemic. They wanted to help people, to live a life of service. And they’re doing that still, even though they share the fear and uncertainty that we all do. No, it’s not the school year you bargained for and I’m terribly sorry for that. But amidst these dire circumstances, I want you to know that there are plenty of people to learn from. There’s plenty of reason to hope. And if all else fails, I’ve heard that Where’s Lightfoot meme page is a good place to go for a laugh. So thank you. And I want to turn it over to the star of Where’s Lightfoot? The city of Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot.
Lori Lightfoot: (18:20)
Thank you. Let’s see if I can get this down. There we go. Well, we all do need a little bit of a laugh and some humor. As I said the other day, the thing that I like most about the memes and the videos that we put out is it gives people hope. And hope means healing. And that’s what we need in this time. So thank you, Governor Pritzker. As we just heard from the governor, this virus is lethal and growing. That is why I fully support the governor’s bold but necessary extension of the stay at home order. And this may not be what residents want, but it is what we need. And the city of Chicago stands ready to continue to partner with the state in any way possible as we navigate the challenges that lie ahead. Just as we heard, to pretend this crisis and is anything less than dangerous, that would not only be irresponsible, but it would be deadly.
Lori Lightfoot: (19:32)
And here’s the reality that we all know. The numbers of cases will continue to rise and get worse before it gets better. That is why we’ve been directing the full power of our city government to stay ahead of this crisis, to flatten the curve, and to save lives. Earlier today I joined with local public safety union leaders to announce the city of Chicago will be opening up additional hotel space for our first responders who are fighting COVID in order to provide them with a safe space to stay during this crisis. This involves the Hotel Essex providing 274 rooms for our first responders. And thanks again to the Oxford Group for their incredible civic leadership and partnering with us in this effort. Meanwhile, in partnership with the governor and his team as well as the Army Corps of Engineers and IEMA, we are diligently working to convert McCormick Place into an alternative care site with the goal of 3000 beds in order to relieve the strain on our hospital resources. And we will continue to take additional proactive measures based upon our anticipated need, all of which builds on the measures we had been putting in place now for weeks related to everything from food assistance, childcare, small business support, housing, and much, much more. However, more still needed.
Lori Lightfoot: (20:59)
That is why, again, we are calling on Chicagoans to explore volunteer and employment opportunities during this crisis. Now is the time to step up as so many of you have. If you want to help, we have a job for you. This especially goes for individuals with medical training, doctors, nurses, assistants, hospital administrators, and the governor ran through the list. Everyone in the entire hospital ecosystem, we need you. Medical professionals can connect with Chicago Medical Reserve Corps. This is a network of both medical and nonmedical professionals who volunteer their time to assist during emergencies like the one that we’re in. To register, please visit Illinoishelps.net. That’s Illinoishelps.net. And anyone interested in stepping up in any way can visit our website, chicago.gov/coronavirus. Our needs don’t end with healthcare. We also need help with food assistance, childcare, financial donations, and much more. There are groups like The Greater Chicago Food Depository, the United Way, Salvation Army, and many, many more who are really stepping up in this time of need, the YMCA and others. There, if you go to the website, you’ll find ways to volunteer and help, whether as a volunteer or as an employee.
Lori Lightfoot: (22:27)
And I want to say thanks to the folks who’ve been going into their own pockets to feed our healthcare workers and our first responders and give them some choices while restaurants are on reduced service. We especially have a need on the third watch, that’s the midnight shift. All your donations are much appreciated. For all this, the first step in combating COVID-19 is following the governor’s stay at home order. Stay home, save lives, period. The fewer people who stay home, the longer this crisis will last. And candidly, the more people who will die and the longer it will take us to recover. It’s just the simple facts.
Lori Lightfoot: (23:11)
Finally, I’d like to say a word in respect to our schools and city colleges during this extended order. Obviously, consistent with this extension, CPS schools will remain closed through April 30th. CPS will reach out to faculty and staff and families to provide further guidance. Also, as announced yesterday, the remote learning plans of both the Chicago public schools and city colleges will continue as planned to ensure our students won’t be shortchanged on their education despite these unprecedented circumstances. Our remote learning plans will remain in effect throughout the duration of the stay at home order. And as I said yesterday, we will not allow this crisis to stand in the way of our children’s future and their dreams. And I’d like to once again express my heartfelt gratitude to our city’s educators for their work to get this new curriculum model off the ground and running in a short amount of time. And thanks, of course, to the lunchroom staff and others who are working so hard to make sure that our students are fed. With that, I’d now like to welcome Illinois’ director of public health, Dr. Ezike, to the podium. Doctor?
Doctor Ezike: (24:27)
Thank you, ma’am. So we come before you each day to encourage you to continue the fight against this deadly disease. To arm you, we want to bring you data, facts, and science. Several scientific studies have shown that physical distancing, social distancing works in reducing the number of people infected. Extending the stay at home order is key to reducing the spread of the virus and the number of people who become ill. as you know, those who are moderately ill may need medical care. And although those individuals may not require an ICU bed, may not require intubation and a ventilator, they will still need doctors and nurses. And the medical professionals who tend to them will still need the personal protective equipment to care for those who are moderately ill. We want to make sure that we have enough resources for those who are the sickest in order to reduce the overall number of people who are exposed and infected with COVID-19. We see that there are some hospitals that are increasing or reaching capacity of the number of ICU and ventilators and we want to make sure that everyone who needs an ICU bed, everyone who needs a ventilator will get the care that they need and that’s why it’s so important that we flatten the curve.
Doctor Ezike: (26:17)
The concern is that our medical resources will be stretched to their limits and so that’s why staying at home will help us have the healthcare capacity we need. We are seeing for today that the number of cases in Illinois is 5,994, including 99 deaths. This is an increase of 937 cases from yesterday and we’ve added 26 fatalities. We did know that these numbers would increase and we did unfortunately know that there would be additional fatalities. And we also know that all the illness is not reflected in these numbers because of the limits of testing, but I do want to put these numbers in perspective and remind you that the majority of those that get infected do not suffer severe illness, do not require hospitalization.
Doctor Ezike: (27:21)
What we do need to pay attention to with these numbers is what they mean for our health care capacity so we keep reminding of the need to flatten the curve. The most severely ill will need hospitalization and we want to be able to provide that. We are prioritizing testing for those who are 65 years and older and those with the most severe symptoms. We also want to test those in the correctional facilities. We also want to test those in the nursing home and other long term care facilities. By testing those with the most severe illness and those at the highest risk, we will hopefully see the number of cases and the number of deaths increase with early identification. Early data does show that the vast majority of people, we think up to 80%, will not need any severe critical care. We all need to do our part by staying home in order to reduce the spread.
Doctor Ezike: (28:25)
To better understand the effects of this virus, IDPH recently sent a survey to COVID-19 cases and asked about their recovery. It was sent to people who tested positive, who are at least seven days after their positive test results. Of those that responded, 48% indicated that they had recovered. And as we get more responses, we hope to show you that with more time, even more have fully recovered. I also want to share an update on the death of the infant that was reported earlier. Health officials are talking with pediatricians, are talking with the family, are talking with the hospital, the medical examiner, to discuss the entire medical history all the way to acquiring all of the immunization dates. The CDC is onboard and is partnering with the teams as we try to provide further information. Please understand that this investigation is ongoing. And I thank everyone for their patience as these details do take time to collect. Our focus right now is preventing infection and the need for hospitalization. And the science has shown us that physical distancing will help. So please stay home.
Doctor Ezike: (29:49)
And as we get more information, more data, more science, we’ll share with you. The CDC just recently put out new guidance in the last 24 hours saying that we should be concerned about people transmitting the virus even 24 or 48 hours before symptoms become. So that’s even further evidence that we need to stay home. You can’t eyeball someone and think you know if they’re sick or not. Let’s continue to do what we’ve been telling ourselves to do. Washing our hands, staying home, covering our cough, cleaning frequently touched surfaces. Let’s do it all for ourselves, for our family, and for our community.
Doctor Ezike: (30:36)
And now I will summarize these comments in Spanish. [Spanish 00:14:51].
Speaker 1: (32:01)
[Foreign language 00:32:01].
Speaker 2: (34:48)
Thank you doctor, Governor, mayor. We greatly appreciate your leadership and the constant communication both of your offices having with us during this trying time. As we enter into this fourth week of this pandemic, we are seeing claims run employment benefits rise to unbelievable levels. These staggering unemployment numbers put a human face on the severity of this crisis. Unfortunately, as this crisis continues, the numbers of unemployed will also increase. However, no unemployment statistic can tell the story of the number of Illinoians going to work each day to deliver the goods and services, desperately needed to combat this pandemic.
Speaker 2: (35:34)
Not everyone can stay at home and out of harm’s way. There are many working people on the front lines making sure the citizens of Illinois receive the essential services they need and deserve. For example, nurses and other healthcare workers healing the sick from this virus and other ailments. Public employees delivering vital government services, letter carriers and postal workers delivering mail and packages, firefighters and paramedics responding to emergencies, childcare caseworkers protecting our children and police officers patrolling our streets. Food producers and grocery workers making sure grocery shelves are stocked.
Speaker 2: (36:14)
Manufacturing workers making PPE and other vital products to get us through this pandemic. Trade workers at power generating stations, keeping the lights on, transportation workers keeping the buses and the trains running. Maintenance workers disinfecting public spaces and public buildings. And construction workers to continue to build for the future, and propping up needed medical facilities, including an additional 3000 beds at Macquarie Place right here in Chicago. Let’s take a minute to think of what these workers and their families are going through every day.
Speaker 2: (36:52)
These workers and many others, are going to work on all shifts, and at great personal risk to themselves and their families. Before each shift, they kiss their loved ones goodbye and leave for work. The question, will they be exposed to the virus today? And if so, will they take the virus home to their families? Their sacrifices are real and meaningful. We owe them more than our gratitude. While social distancing is critical, these frontline workers are in desperate need of PPE and access to testing immediately. We join with Governor Pritzker, Senator Durbin, Senator Duckworth and the Illinois congressional delegation to urge the president to you utilize the Defense Production Act.
Speaker 2: (37:39)
To mobilize all of the industry to produce the safety items workers desperately need to protect themselves and their families. We further call upon OSHA to issue emergency temporary standard, to protect all workers at potential risk of occupational exposure to infectious diseases, including COVID-19. On behalf of the nearly 1 million workers of organized labor throughout Illinois, the Illinois AFL-CIO will continue to advocate for the health and safety of each and every worker currently engaged in the fight to defeat this virus. All of us depend on them staying healthy and safe to keep up the fight. Thank you, and I’d like to introduce Brad Cole of the Illinois Municipal League. Thank you Brad.
Brad Cole: (38:32)
On behalf of the 1,298 cities, villages and towns throughout Illinois, all represented by the Illinois Municipal League, I’m here today to again stand with you governor, in full partnership with your team as we, the local elected officials from across our state, fully cooperate to administer the various compliance and enforcement components of your executive orders. When the governor announced the first stay at home order to begin on March 21, local leaders asked for the public’s patience and understanding. In the days that followed, that request was heightened, as additional stricter measures were needed to get some of the public’s attention.
Brad Cole: (39:17)
Today we call on our constituents to remain determined along with us, to stay home, save lives, and to exercise the resilience that we all believe is one of Illinois finest traits. Municipal law enforcement agencies and public safety personnel, public works crews and administrative and professional staff, have all responded to the needs of their communities, during these past 10 days. That will continue through the next 30 days, or sooner or later as may be necessary. We will keep the cities of this state functioning, your neighborhood safe, your business secure, your trash picked up, your kitchen faucet running, and your toilet flushing.
Brad Cole: (40:03)
Municipal operations will continue, although obviously limited to essential functions. We will respond as we are able to all of the various aspects of local government, the support residents and businesses, and we will adapt and adjust to the new standards of service delivery wherever possible. The faster we seriously comply with the executive orders, the faster we will be able to slow and stop the spread of this virus and the faster we will then be able to turn on the economic engines of Illinois’ communities, from large to small.
Brad Cole: (40:41)
Illinois is a world-class state that is home to world-class cities, that are home to the finest people we know. That is something that this public health crisis cannot and will not change. As I have stated previously, community leaders prepare for and effectively handle natural disasters and unknown events, as best we can. And we approach this no differently. Governor.
J. B. Pritzker: (41:08)
Thank you. Happy to take any questions. The mayor, me or anybody who’s up here today.
Speaker 3: (41:14)
[crosstalk 00:41:14] take the short order and a school. Why not just tell them, “We’re going to close till the end of the year?” [inaudible 00:41:21] critical.
J. B. Pritzker: (41:23)
Because we don’t know in fact that this need for stay at home order will go beyond May one, and that’s why we haven’t extended the order beyond that. We’re trying to follow the best science. You heard the CDC and the president of the United States suggesting that April 30th was the extension date that they put forward. We had been thinking that if we needed to extend and it was looking like we would, that we would go to the end of April, and so that’s the date we chose.
Speaker 3: (41:56)
Well would it make it short?
J. B. Pritzker: (41:59)
Well, we need to see. First of all, we have to see the peak here. We haven’t seen the peak and there’s no perfect model that you can look at, whether it’s a University of Washington model or any other, and we’ve got great institutions here in Illinois that have done a lot of modeling, based upon the science and the medical doctors in their estimations. But the truth is that we don’t know when we’re going to peak and we don’t know when we’re going to come off that peak. So I think look, everybody’s taking their best educated look at what date seems appropriate and this is the best educated date that they’ve come up with between the experts and those of us who know something about how to manage city and state matters.
Speaker 4: (42:45)
A question about that [inaudible 00:42:47].
J. B. Pritzker: (42:48)
Speaker 4: (42:49)
Once we do get that [inaudible 00:42:50] then what happens? Do we have to wait two weeks? Is it [inaudible 00:42:54] month? What should people [inaudible 00:42:55]?
J. B. Pritzker: (42:56)
Again, it’s hard to say and you don’t see anybody around the country answering that question either because, people think well peak and you look at some of these curves that are just broadly drawn on a piece of paper or on a poster board like this and it looks like you’re immediately off of a peak. What we’re seeing in places like New York is that the peak may last for several days or more. Who knows? They’re seeing this in other places around the world as well. That you might peak, and remember, the whole idea here is to make sure that we’re keeping patients safe at home if they don’t need to be in a hospital, hospitalized if they need to be ICU beds and so on.
J. B. Pritzker: (43:41)
But we really want people not to get this in the first place, so that we can keep them away from the medical institutions, the hospitals. So we can manage through this, because ultimately people are getting it and we want them to get it over some period of time. So I think we’re going to peek and head down the other side. But I could not tell you when that is. That’s why we’re a little uncertain about exactly what date we might be able to come off. But we think that April 30 is a good end date for now [crosstalk 00:44:10].
Speaker 5: (44:12)
Sorry. So we’ve had a lot of emails and calls about gig workers not able get an appointment, now they’re also [inaudible 00:44:25].
J. B. Pritzker: (44:24)
Most gig workers actually by virtue of the federal stimulus package, should be able to access either a stimulus check or an unemployment claim. So we’ll happy to work with people if they don’t fully understand. We have a hotline that people can call. I do suggest that people go online and look at what their rights are based upon that federal stimulus package, but our intention here is to take care of them as well. We have many of them in the city of Chicago. I don’t know Mary, you’d like to respond to that as well.
Well I think the governor’s got it exactly right, but we know that for some folks they can’t wait. That’s why we started several weeks ago, announcing a Small Business Resiliency Fund, to help small businesses be able to meet their payroll. That’s why we made the announcement last week about helping people be able to meet their rent and mortgage payments. It’s why the Chicago Community Trust and United Way started a fund that’s now I think an excess of $15 million, to help those community organizations and their workers, make sure that they can continue to do the necessary and good work in neighborhoods.
So, we are putting together both at the city level and the state level, an array of resources all intended to help residents that are in need and we’ll continue to look and explore lots of different ways. When we I think have a better sense of the money that’s actually going to be flowing to the state and to the city, there’re going to be more opportunities for us to be able to step up and help as well [crosstalk 00:45:57] yes. Go ahead Dana.
Oh, [inaudible 00:46:03] while you’re there, to be clear, in addition to schools, the stay at home order will also mean Chicago Parks, Lake-
[inaudible 00:46:10] oh yes. All that remains closed. If you look at the order that we issued last week, the order says in fact until further notice of the commissioner of public health. So there’s no time limit on when those closures will end. Obviously we’ll do it in consistent with the stay at home order, but also we’re going to be guided as we all are, by whatever the data and the science tells us, but they remain closed.
Speaker 6: (46:39)
[inaudible 00:46:39] though with the weather getting warmer in the coming weeks. We have had one warm day last week, you came out with very stern words. How hard is this going to get the longer this goes [inaudible 00:46:49].
Look, it’s challenging. Part of the reason we decided to have a little fun and put out our own PSAs about staying home is, people are hungry for activity. I’m a huge sports fan. Opening day I think at Wrigley, which should have been today. I’ve missed the opening day of Sox and the Chicago Fire, the NCAA March Madness. It’s not just sports, when people are really challenging themselves to figure out creative ways that they can distract themselves from the concern and fear that they realistically have and we understand that. So we’re going to keep messaging to folks to give them things. We’re going to be bringing a couple of things online that’s a little tease in Chicago to really I think draw upon the great artistic talent that we have in the city.
But we, people want content and they want to be distracted from the day to day, and I get that. But as I said before, I’m really gratified that since we edited the order last week, we’ve seen virtually uniform compliance across the city. A couple of spots that we’re working on. But even there, day over day,
Speaker 7: (48:03)
[inaudible 00:48:00] we’re seeing a drastic reduction in a number of dispersal orders that the Chicago Police Department has had to give. But I think getting people psychologically prepared, which we’ve done over these last few weeks, people understand and are starting to really get it, that staying home really will make a huge difference in flattening the curve, getting us to the peak sooner rather than later, and then down on the other side of the steep slope.
We’ll do one more in the room, and then we’ve got to get to the online questions.
Speaker 7: (48:49)
No, I don’t know that your number of four is correct. But, look, the reality is this is a virus that doesn’t discriminate. People of all walks of life, every geography and every kind of job type are going to test positive for this disease. It doesn’t discriminate. We have done and will continue to do a range of things at and vital city services, of course, the water department being among them, to make sure that we are very responsive to any worker who tests positive. But in addition to that, we’ve been at this now for several weeks, really educating members of our workforce about what they should do, what signs they should look for. But the thing that we’ve got to keep doing that some folks unfortunately haven’t gotten the message is, when you are sick, and to quote Dr. [Arwati 00:49:40], even a little bit, you’ve got to stay at home. We’ve seen instances, unfortunately, of workers … And I won’t call any out … that are trying to tough it out and go to work sick. That is the wrong thing to do in this time. If you’ve got any of the signs, a cough, a cold, any kind of upper respiratory issues or any other sickness that makes your underlying medical conditions potentially be exacerbated, you should stay home. That’s what we want, and really that’s what we need to be able to save lives.
J. B. Pritzker: (50:13)
Craig, let me just add one thing to that, which is people should know their water supply is safe. Just because there may be a worker or several workers who may feel they have COVID-19 or even get tested positive, water supply is safe. It won’t be traveling through your pipes and into your homes.
This one is for the medical professionals up there. The Illinois Nurses Association says there is a critical shortage of disposable thermometer probes, so they are being told to save them so they can be sanitized with bleach and heat and reused. Have we heard about this, if there is a shortage? What should health care workers do?
Speaker 8: (50:51)
So thank you for that question. So we know that this is an epidemic. This pandemic is global, and so supplies are scarce throughout the country. If people have items that can be reused with certain sanitation mechanisms, we have some guidance that we’ve given for certain equipment on our website in terms of [QPE 00:51:16], and there are also are definitely instructions for medical equipment. So those should be followed. Things should be disinfected with approved products. We definitely want to be able to stretch out our supplies, but we also know that everybody is working hard to obtain additional supplies so that we can have what we need to do the best job we can for all the people that we’re taking care of, because, of course, we support our nurses completely.
Governor, groups have called on you to overturn the ban on rent control. Is this something that you have the power to do? If not, what is the state doing to aid residents who have lost jobs and will have difficulty paying rent next month? What advice do you have for people in those situations?
J. B. Pritzker: (52:00)
There is currently, in state law, a moratorium on rent control, so that’s not something that under an executive order that I can overturn. However, as many of you know, we’ve issued executive orders to ban evictions across the state to make sure that people are not having their utilities turned off. So we have a moratorium on shutoffs of any utility that you may be utilizing. We’ve provided other supports for working families and, really, everybody across the state to make sure that they’re taken care of. We obviously … I said yesterday something very important for people to recognize, which is your health care workers who are coming home, and anybody who’s experiencing a landlord who’s hassling them about the fact that they may be exposed because they’re a health care worker and interfering with their right to rent in a building needs to come forward, because we will go after those landlords.
J. B. Pritzker: (53:11)
Yes. Everything that has been in place up to now will be extended through April 30th, through the night of April 30th.
Are you considering designating COVID-specific nursing homes? My understanding is that other states like Massachusetts, Connecticut and others are doing this, and that Illinois nursing homes are concerned about mixing COVID residents with non-COVID residents.
J. B. Pritzker: (53:32)
So the challenge, just to be clear about that, is that often there are nursing home residents who can’t be moved. Indeed, the best advice by doctors has been don’t move patients, if you can quarantine them in place. So we’re trying hard within the nursing homes that exist today to have COVID patients in one area of a nursing area. Many times there are wings, floors, and so on in a nursing home. We’re trying to separate those who are COVID positive, those who maybe have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19 and those who don’t have it. Frankly, those are the divisions that we’re trying to keep around the state in every way we can.
Will you move to expand mail-in ballots or make that the norm for future elections?
J. B. Pritzker: (54:21)
Well, I’ve been an advocate for mail-in ballots for a long time anyway, but I do think that we’re going to have to look at, for the general election, the idea that we may have to move to a significant amount or maybe all mail-in ballots, or at least giving people the opportunity to do that. So we’re going to look at that, but that is something that the legislature needs to do. So we have to find a way to get the legislature together. That’s going to be a decision that gets made by the legislative leaders, along with our public health professionals, to determine how you get 177 general assembly members in a similar area and vote on things, let alone how they’ll manage through committees.
Grocery store workers and delivery services you deem essential have gone on strike. Amazon fired one worker who organized the strike. Do you support their movement? Is it appropriate to strike during a pandemic?
J. B. Pritzker: (55:19)
Well, I’ve been a lifelong supporter of labor unions. I believe it’s a fundamental right to collectively bargain. So my view is that we are in a very difficult moment. There’s no doubt about it. The conditions … You heard Mr. [Dre 00:55:36] talk about the conditions that people are working under and making sure that there are standards that are set in these very unusual times. Look, I support workers, and I also have talked to many, many businesses. They want to work this out. The workers, the unions and the business are talking, and I certainly have tried, wherever I could, to create a bridge for them. So I hope and believe that these things will get worked out.
With the tenfold increase in unemployment claims, does Illinois have enough unemployment savings to pay out all of the applicants. As of 01/01/2020, the state has 1.4 billion in unemployment funds.
J. B. Pritzker: (56:17)
The answer is no, but, fortunately, the federal government in the latest stimulus package provided a significant amount of funding for unemployment. We are also allowed in a state to dip below the reserves that exist if we need to to borrow from the federal government. But the federal government has done a great job of providing funding. I believe we’re going to need more. I mean, I think I said this at a press conference when Senator Durbin was here. We’re going to have to see another relief package, because not only is there an unemployment problem, which hopefully it will be only four months or so long, but there’s also a challenge to all of our city budgets and state budgets. It goes beyond what was provided in the federal stimulus that was passed just recently. We have to address these things. I know that Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth and the entire congressional delegation is concerned to make sure that we’re able to meet our obligations in the state and in our cities, so I know we’ll get more help from them. I’m hopeful that the United States Senate, the United States House and the president will come to an agreement as they finally did on this last relief package.
Do you support the idea of temporary licenses for nursing students to get more help in hospitals? Ohio just approved a similar plan to get thousands of students into hospitals?
J. B. Pritzker: (57:43)
Yes, indeed. We’ve been spending quite a lot of time. I’ve got a terrific legal team working together with our IDFPR professionals to look at giving temporary licenses to people which or mostly trained, who are nearly graduated. We have nursing students who are a month away or two months away from graduation. They’re capable of being health care professionals even now. We need them in the health care field. The same thing with medical students and others. As I said a few press conferences ago, there are people who left the profession and no longer have their license because they didn’t re-up it. They didn’t intend to come back to the profession. Either they started a business or did something else with their lives. We’ve asked them to come back in. We’re giving them temporary licenses as well. So, yes, we need everybody and anybody that has medical training to help us in this endeavor. I mean, just think of the hospitals that we’re turning on across the state, that we’re expanding capacity. Then think about McCormick Place with 3,000 potential patients. We need health care workers, and we need to add to our workforce in every and any way we can.
J. B. Pritzker: (59:04)
That’s currently in a bankruptcy proceeding, and so we’re following it closely. That is certainly a facility that we would like to be able to look at, work with. But because it’s in bankruptcy court, we can’t yet do that.
Speaker 8: (59:37)
I was just trying to say that it’s an exhaustive investigation where they’re looking at all medical records and documents for the child, trying to see if there’s anything that can give us a clue towards this unfortunate outcome.
This will be the last question.
Speaker 8: (59:52)
So, again, as I just shared, the guidance and the information, the epidemiologic data is giving us new information every day. So we have to be sensitive. In the last 24 hours, the CDC has said that we are more concerned that there is transmission in the 24 to 48 hours even before the symptoms start in some cases. So armed with that information, that means that all of us will have to re-look at … Some hospitals and different professional groups will have to look at what this new information tells us and what that means in terms of our practices. So that would suggest that we don’t know exactly who is COVID positive. We don’t know … If it’s just being symptomatic, that is not along the sign that you should protect yourself. So those guidances are going to have to affect our practices, and that might mean that more people will need to use PPE in more situations.
J. B. Pritzker: (01:01:18)
May I just add that every hospital in Illinois is in touch with the CDPH or the IDPH, their local health departments. We have shipped PPE of all sorts, including whether it’s medical general masks or surgical masks or N95 masks, even KN95 masks which have now been approved for this sort of use, all across the state. It’s not that everybody’s swimming in PPE, but everybody has the necessary PPE across the state. If you don’t, if you’re in a health care facility that doesn’t for some reason, which we’re not hearing that from the facilities … But if for some reason that happens, they know. The facilities know that they can reach out either to their local health department in their county or the city health department in the case of the city of Chicago, or directly to our IDPH and [inaudible 01:02:14] we will make sure that there is PPE. As I’ve said at every one of my press conferences, I have a team of people who are working night and day and succeeding in many cases to find the kind of PPE we need. We hope to keep restocking our stores, because as soon as it comes in, we’re basically sending it out to all those facilities to keep those professionals protected. Thank you.