May 14, 2020
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript May 14
Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a COVID-19 briefing May 14. He announced that all regions of Illinois will move to next phase of reopening. Read the full transcript of his press conference speech.
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Hello, everyone. Welcome to our daily coronavirus update. We’re going to start today with Governor Pritzker.
J.B. Pritzker: (02:19)
Well, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our Thursday, May 14th, 2:30 public update. And we’ll begin today, as we do every day, with a medical update from Dr. Ngozi Ezike. Doctor.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (02:36)
Thank you, governor. And thank you everyone for tuning in today. I begin with today’s medical report with the latest COVID-19 data. Today, IDPH reports 3,239 new cases resulted over the last 24 hours. For a total of 87,937 individuals with COVID-19. Included in those numbers are 138 new deaths reported in the last 24 hours to bring our death total to 3,928. To date, 512,037 tests have been performed. 22,678 were reported in the last 24 hours. As of last night, 4,473 people were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,132 patients were in the ICU, and 689 patients were on ventilators.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (03:46)
Governor Pritzker has continued to follow the science, followed recommendations by the CDC, he’s heard from many doctors, epidemiologists and modelers. They have helped shape the decisions that he’s made for Illinois. And I thank him for taking this virus seriously. And for attacking this virus early. I wear many hats as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, but as much as my family is on my mind, I’m constantly thinking of all Illinoisans, COVID-19 has changed our communities and it’s changed our every day lives.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (04:26)
I know for some, family members have been taken away. But we must try our hardest not to continue to add to that death toll. Yes, we understand that not every life can be saved. But we will do what we can. We did tell you that COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus. That remains true. Everyone is at risk of contracting this virus, no matter what County you live in, what municipality you live in, COVID-19 does not care about the color of your skin or your political affiliation. Let’s all protect ourselves to minimize the ravages of this virus.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (05:15)
Let’s not let this virus succeed in dividing our families, our communities, or our state. Let’s keep working together to end this pandemic. The way we respond to this virus today will affect our lives for the generations to come. And with that, I will summarize my comments in Spanish. [ Spanish 00:05:47]. COVID-19. [Spanish 00:06:02] COVID-19 in Illinois. [Spanish 00:06:18],
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (09:08)
And with that, I will turn it over to governor Pritzker.
J.B. Pritzker: (09:13)
Thank you very much, Dr. Ezike. I want to bring everyone up to date today on the new pandemic unemployment assistance program that opened on Monday, allowing IDES to process claims for 10-99 workers, self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and many others who don’t normally qualify for traditional unemployment benefits. Per the US Department of Labor reporting policy, official filing numbers for the PUA program will begin to be reported on May 21st. But what I can tell you now is that since the program opened on Monday, more than 50,000 applications have been filed. With regard to traditional unemployment filings as of today, IDES has processed over 1,076,000 unemployment claims in Illinois from March 1st until May 9th. About six times as many claims as in the equivalent time period of the 2008-2009 great recession. Supporting and protecting our Illinois workers and families through this immensely challenging time is my top priority.
J.B. Pritzker: (10:37)
And IDES has vastly expanded its systems and capabilities as part of that effort, but we can’t stop there. It’s critical that our state do everything possible to help our residents get back to work, whether returning to positions that they once held, or with employers who are seeking to hire. On this latter point, the Department of Employment Services and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have joined forces to launch a new and updated one-stop-shop dedicated to connecting our residents with jobs. This online portal also serves as a hub for Illinoisans to access new skills training opportunities and employer hosted virtual job fairs. Get Hired Illinois is the name of this new website. And it can be found at illinois.gov/gethired. I want to be clear the financial stability and success of our residents is key to getting Illinois economy back on its feet. Illinois won’t be restored until our workers and families have the opportunities and resources they need to build and fill in their lives.
J.B. Pritzker: (11:56)
And I won’t rest until we see that mission through. That’s why my administration is working with businesses and industries across the state to encourage more employers to utilize this central jobs hub. It’s a great way to find your next employee and to help get Illinois families back on their feet. And I want to encourage businesses and members of the business community to list their jobs and access that site. In addition, for employees who want to upgrade their pay scale from their last job, we’re increasing access to skills based training programs by partnering with Illinois employers, higher education institutions and workforce agencies to make additional resources available to job seekers, including virtual job training.
J.B. Pritzker: (12:51)
Over the coming months, more of these training programs will be coming online and I’ll be the first to share them with you when they do. Beginning in June and in partnership with online learning platform, Coursera, Illinois will become one of the first states in the nation to provide unemployed workers with free unlimited access to 3,800 online courses. And 400 specializations offered by over 160 of the best universities in the world. A level of access that normally costs $400 a year, but is free to those who are unemployed in Illinois right now. Through the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative, unemployed workers in Illinois will also have access to formal professional certificates, like the Google IT Support professional certificate, designed to train people without a college degree or any technical background for high demand IT jobs.
J.B. Pritzker: (13:56)
And I’m particularly pleased to say that this free access will run through the end of the year 2020, offering a wide window in which people can access high quality, free online learning services and training. With strong ties to some of Illinois world-class institutions, including the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University, these Coursera offerings will work to broaden access to high quality and affordable education, serving thousands of people across our state. So, thank you. And now I’d be happy to take questions from members of the media.
We’ll start with pool reporter, Mary Ann Ahern From NBC Five.
Mary Ann Ahern: (14:44)
Thank you, governor. I appreciate it. Just on topic, I think there are going to be some folks who wonder, they appreciate the training and look forward to it, but what if there are no jobs to go to? What kind of jobs specifically might you be talking about for that training?
J.B. Pritzker: (15:03)
Well, actually I mentioned one example of jobs that are available. There are jobs listed right now at Get Hired. So, an example is just what I mentioned, IT related jobs. Remember, so many people now are attempting to work from home. They have IT setups that weren’t really made for what they’re now having to do. And so there are jobs available for helping people with their technical needs individually, and more importantly, businesses that need those services that someone could provide if they obtain the right kind of courses and certifications.
Mary Ann Ahern: (15:45)
Thank you. And yet, there are still so many, I know you hear from them, all of us reporters hear from them. Marcella Raymond is asking to ask again about unemployment. Folks, They’ve lost so much patience. They can’t pay their bills. And because those numbers are so high, the unemployment rate over 20%-
Mary Ann Ahern: (16:03)
… is the 100 new staffers enough?
J.B. Pritzker: (16:08)
Well, again, 1,076,000 claims have been filed and they are part of the claims process that has already been gone through at IDS. There are those who either have been stopped because they have technical issues, which they should go online to try to work through, because we have online resources for them to use. Or as we have added 100-
Mary Ann Ahern: (16:41)
Oh dear. What’s going on.
J.B. Pritzker: (16:46)
-understands that the amount of time that it takes to manage an online application is much smaller than the amount of time that it takes to manage a phone application.
Mary Ann Ahern: (16:59)
Okay. Thank you. Ben Bradley from WGN notes that now on the IDPH website, as of today, all regions are currently meeting the state’s metrics to move to the next phase of reopening May 29th. Obviously this might change, but can you confirm that that is the case, including the Northeast region?
J.B. Pritzker: (17:23)
Every region is so far meeting all the metrics. Remember that they need to go through a time period and that there needs to be an averaging of those metrics during that time period. You can see all the metrics on the IDPH website, but that is true and that on the website, you can see that Chicago and the region surrounding Chicago has now dropped below 20% in terms of positivity rate. That’s a gating factor for moving into the next phase.
Mary Ann Ahern: (17:56)
Yet at the same time, Governor, I have multiple questions about this. Why should counties and cities, they feel as if they’re being punished by being lumped in with Cook County. The suburbs want to separate. I’ve spoken to several mayors. We’ve also seen several law enforcement, Kane County, a couple of different counties, are saying they’re going to ignore the rules. Any wiggle room, any tweaking of the plan to let some of these regions perhaps be redesigned?
J.B. Pritzker: (18:30)
Well the last question sort of begins to answer this question. The answer to the last question does, anyway. You can see that every region is poised, if it maintains the metrics that it’s at now, to move into phase three in a few short days. I mean, literally, we’re talking about 14 days. So I think it’s useful though to note that you could have drawn regions in virtually any which way, I’ve said it before, but I want you to pay attention to the reason that we drew the regions as we did.
J.B. Pritzker: (19:07)
Let me start with the fact that people who live in one area don’t necessarily stay in that one area the entire time. They travel outside of the county that they’re in or the city that they’re in, in the immediate area. They do that frequently. So we had to account for that as we were drawing the regions.
J.B. Pritzker: (19:25)
Secondly, the IDPH uses 11 EMS regions. We asked our medical teams to kind of give us their feedback about how the regions interact with one another and when they need to move around resources and how do those regions interact? They came back to us and told us that these are the pairings of regions that work well together.
J.B. Pritzker: (19:54)
Then finally, as I say, there’s almost any way to draw this map. There are people who live in one area who say, “Gee, I don’t know anybody who’s been who’s contracted COVID-19 and therefore my little area should be let out of some region.” But the reality is this is about healthcare resources and making sure that if something bad happens, like a surge-
Mary Ann Ahern: (20:56)
Can you all hear me?
Speaker 2: (21:01)
We can hear you Marianne. Hold on one second. We’ll try to get the Governor back up.
J.B. Pritzker: (21:04)
All right. Am I back? Can you see me and hear me?
Mary Ann Ahern: (21:30)
I can hear you governor,
J.B. Pritzker: (21:31)
Hey, my apologies. It may be the low bandwidth or a lot of usage of bandwidth in my neighborhood.
Mary Ann Ahern: (21:39)
I think it’s also where I am as well. Another question from one of my colleagues, Gaynor Hall, will the state take any additional steps to enforce the stay at home order now that Moore County Sheriff’s are refusing to step in?
J.B. Pritzker: (21:54)
Well, you’ve heard us talk about that yesterday. So the answer is I’d refer everybody to what I said yesterday about the fact that not only should people follow this, but there will be consequences. I also know that there were leaders in the legal community this morning that spoke about the challenges that will be brought to those local law enforcement, to local governments, and to businesses that open, because they’re putting people at risk. They’re making their communities unsafe. They’ll be subject to liability as a result.
Mary Ann Ahern: (22:32)
Leader Brady from Bloomington is asking for perhaps a meeting to sit down, wants to have hearings, wants to play a role in the Restore Illinois Plan. Might there be a public hearing?
J.B. Pritzker: (22:48)
Well, as you know, not only am I isolated right now because of the COVID-19 positive case in our office, but nobody is really getting together in groups of 10 or more. It’s against our stay-at-home rule. So I’m very happy to have conversations with members of the opposite party and with members of the general assembly. I’ve been doing so every single day, indeed Leader Brady has my number. I speak with him quite frequently. So there’s no lack of communication. He knows where I stand. I’ve answered questions. My staff has answered questions that his members have had. We’ve responded by giving data and information whenever asked. So I’m not sure what he’s missing out on. It sounds like grandstanding to me.
Mary Ann Ahern: (23:40)
Amy Jacobson, WIND radio, as more and more county leaders and local mayors are disregarding your plan to reopen and are moving ahead with their own plans, both you and Mayor Lightfoot are threatening to use force to ensure compliance. But at the same time, you’ve released 1000 inmates from prison, including 64 convicted murderers. Do you see the disconnect between these two positions? With the cases in prisons leveling off, will you then be returning those inmates?
J.B. Pritzker: (24:12)
Well, that’s a loaded question if I ever heard one. Let’s start with this: nobody is sending police forces in to a break up activity across the state. What we are doing is enforcing using lots of different methods, enforcing using our licensing capability and our ability to pull licenses from businesses. We’re using our ability to make sure that the towns that are following this get funded properly and those that don’t, don’t. So there are lots of ways in which we can enforce. We will continue to work on that enforcement. We would just, once again, suggest, I would suggest, that towns and leaders, elected leaders do your job. Lead, be the person that they elected, who is supposed to be protecting your community. Don’t fall prey to the rhetoric that’s out there that says, “Oh, let’s just open up. This virus doesn’t affect anybody like me.” You’re wrong.
Mary Ann Ahern: (25:27)
All right. I was trying to group the questions, but unfortunately I’ve got to go back to the reopening metrics one more time. Phil Rogers, my colleague, are the requirements for favorable positivity rates for 14 days and hospital admissions for 28 days iron clad? In other words, if in the midst of this, there is one bad day, do you reset the clock to zero or do they have to go another 14 or 28 without a hit?
J.B. Pritzker: (25:59)
No. There can be days and there are days in which the metrics are above or inaccurate or above the caps that are set. This is about averaging over a period of time.
Mary Ann Ahern: (26:14)
In a given region, if there is a county with bad numbers, will it go ahead and move to the next phase with its fellow counties in that region? In other words, let’s say Scott County had a really bad potential positivity rate, but the rest of the central region was okay. Would Scott go ahead and move up because it is included in the region with the better numbers?
J.B. Pritzker: (26:41)
Remember that this is about healthcare regions and the availability of healthcare. Look at each of those metrics, and you’ll take note of what we were counting here. So I would just remind everybody that yes, there will be some areas that will be a bigger hot spot than another area within a region. But we didn’t want to hold back a region because there’s one hotspot. What we do want to do is make sure everybody in that region has access to health care.
J.B. Pritzker: (27:10)
Remember, in addition to the COVID-19 patients that go into hospitals, you also have people who have heart attacks, people who have gunshot wounds, people have other medical needs that need to go in the hospital. So we’re trying to make sure that healthcare is available to everybody, even while so many people are being hospitalized or getting sick from COVID-19.
Mary Ann Ahern: (27:36)
Governor, from Greg Bishop, businesses looking to open at the end of the month per your phases need to know what the guidance will be. When will that guidance be available so that they can notify suppliers what goods and PPE they need to open?
J.B. Pritzker: (27:52)
Yep. So we have been working with industry leaders across the state, industry leaders in each of the many industries that exist in the state of Illinois. We’ve also asked industry to provide us with their best ideas about how to keep their patrons and their employees safe. So all of that is being worked on now. We’ll certainly, ratably, over the next two to two weeks or so, be releasing the information that will be useful to people in each and every one of those industries. Where there might be something unusual, a situation that’s unique, perhaps, we want those people to come forward and seek guidance and IDPH will provide it.
Mary Ann Ahern: (28:36)
Thank you. This is for Dr. Ezike, from Stephen Graves at CBS 2. A 12 year old Chicago boy is the youngest to die from COVID in Cook County. He did have underlying conditions. Any advice for parents who may be concerned when they hear this news?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (28:55)
I’m sure every parent, everybody in Illinois is saddened to hear this news. Of course, every life lost is a tragedy, but it is somehow just more emotional when it was it a child just at the beginning of their life. I know that there’s no way that we can predict who will have some of these most severe outcomes. I think that’s why we’re trying so hard to work on the prevention and just try to limit the amount of people that get infected.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (29:31)
Please remember that this is a continuum. We know the virus is there. We can’t change it. But we can affect the number of people who contract the virus. That’s why staying at home, it does save lives in itself. It buys us time to learn more about this disease and to hopefully find some cures, buys time to have a slower rate of infection so that more people might have antibodies.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (30:03)
We really just want to slow the progression down. That means slowing the deaths. I can’t do anything to necessarily stop every death, but you can’t blame us for trying. Again, for parents out there, again, the same methods. Stay at home as much as possible. If you’re out, please try to maintain the social distancing, the physical distancing, the six feet. Wear a mask. Clean frequently touched surfaces. Don’t forget about the emphasis on washing our hands for at least 20 seconds with soap. If using hand sanitizer, use a percentage of at least 60% alcohol. All of these things will help decrease the number of fatalities that we will see. They sound mundane, but they are tried and true and will work.
Mary Ann Ahern: (30:56)
Dr. Ezike, one more. This is from Sarah Schulte from ABC 7. Could you explain exactly what the state is doing to track and offer guidance to doctors about COVID-related inflammatory [inaudible 00:31:10] disease. How many reported cases? Have there been any deaths?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (31:15)
Yeah, I think maybe I’ve shared this. I’ll share it again. I have talked to providers who have seen some cases. They actually were scheduled to meet this morning, a team of doctors across the state, some who have seen actual cases that they think fit the description with IDPH staff. Again, we also have some specialists who are world-renowned specialists around the Kawasaki disease. But again, this is not as a Kawasaki disease, but there are some elements of Kawasaki disease that are features of this presentation that we’re seeing in kids, this inflammatory syndrome. So they met today-
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (32:02)
… and the goals of the meeting were to identify the specific features of this spectrum of disorders. We will then [inaudible 00:32:11] to all to be looking out for a constellation of symptoms, so that they can in fact start reporting new cases going forward, and also turn back and look at cases that might fit this description that they’ve seen in the past.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (32:29)
So we’ll put that in the guidance out next week. And then we’ll be collecting the data to get formal reports and not the anecdotal reports that I’ve gotten from providers across the state.
Mary Ann, this will have to be your last one and then we’ll have to go to Tina just to keep it on time.
Mary Ann Ahern: (32:45)
I have a three-parter, unfortunately, from Brad Edwards from CBS2. Is it true there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 tracked back to the recent Open Up Illinois rally at the Thompson Center. Does anyone know if that is correct? If there are any that were tracked back to the open up rally at the Thompson Center? Any COVID-19 cases?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (33:09)
Mary Ann, I don’t have that information, but I can try to see if I can assemble that for tomorrow, if that is known.
Mary Ann Ahern: (33:17)
Okay. He also is asking, hospital staff have told him that a number of cases were individuals who tested positive, refuse to be admitted despite urging. What is the protocol then?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (33:31)
We cannot force individuals to be hospitalized. People can refuse hospitalization, just like they can refuse to be transported, even when 911 is called. If someone wants to leave the hospital in the middle of their stay, they can leave against medical advice, leave AMA.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (33:51)
So again, they would still continue to be tracked by the local public health department in terms of following up on symptoms. We would still do the contact tracing to identify people who they may have been in contact with if that hasn’t been done. But we can’t keep people in the hospital against their will.
Mary Ann Ahern: (34:10)
And is it true that Chicago hospitals originally planned to take down their drive-up testing tents, but they’re now changing that plan because there has been an uptick in cases?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (34:21)
I cannot speak to that. I don’t have that information.
All right. Thank you, Mary Anne. We’ll go to Tina at the Sun Times.
Thank you. This question is for the governor. Can you clarify some statements you made yesterday about looking forward to meeting up with the legislators in Springfield? What is your self-isolation over? How will you meet with the leaders? And do you plan to get another test before you go?
J.B. Pritzker: (34:43)
Sure. Well right now my staff and I are isolating as at home, as you know. And we’re working with IDPH to determine how long we have to do this. I’d like to return to Springfield probably mid, late next week for the opportunity to be there during session.
J.B. Pritzker: (35:07)
But I just need to get signed off from the experts, from the doctors.
And what would that look like? Would you be in your governor’s office and would people be coming in? Or would it be Zoom meetings? How do you envision that?
J.B. Pritzker: (35:18)
Yeah, I think I’d be taking the same precautions that I generally do during this pandemic. And so, yeah, certainly I’ll spend time in my office. I’ll, I’ll sleep overnight at the executive residence. It’ll be, I think reasonably… Or at least, those two locations are reasonably well known to everybody where I would spend time. So, that’s where you’d find me.
Okay. This question’s for Dr. Ezike, Cook County. I’m checking in with Cook County case numbers. I guess, as of yesterday, we were about to surpass Queens County as the worst, the most cases nationwide. Just checking in if we did surpass that. And also if there’s any lessons to be had from Queens County, since they’re kind of going on a downward trajectory now.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (36:07)
Again, I just want to make sure that everyone is clear that having higher case counts is a function of increasing our testing. No one in the country has captured all of the cases of COVID-19. They have captured cases for which people have been tested. And not everybody has been tested.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (36:29)
So I think it’s a credit that we have been able to ramp up testing throughout the state. And this is getting us closer to actual numbers, but is falling far, far, far below the actual numbers.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (36:44)
We obviously want to promote testing. We want to get as many people that tested as possible. And to do that, we have to keep ramping up our capacity.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (36:53)
Again, recall that less than two weeks ago, we were testing about, resulting about 7,000 specimens per day. And recently, we’ve had several days over 20,000. So, that’s a significant jump, which appropriately has resulted in a significant increase in the number of cases identified.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (37:18)
So, I don’t want to get that point lost, that the number of cases that we’re identifying is proportional to the number of tests. And we’ve increased our cases because we’ve increased the amount of testing we’ve done. And we hope to keep doing that.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (37:34)
So, you actually will see more cases because we will continue to ramp up our testing.
Okay. This question is from Black Club from Kelly Bauer. Unique Clay, a black Chicago mom with a COVID-19 diagnosis, was sent home with her newborn and died soon after. With black maternal death rates in this country already alarmingly high, what can be done to prevent another tragedy like this from happening? Will there be an effort to ensure that all expectant mothers not only be tested, but provided care, if they’re found positive?
J.B. Pritzker: (38:03)
I think I’d like to turn that over to Dr. Ezike.
J.B. Pritzker: (38:05)
Before I do, though, I just wanted to add on the point about the number of cases that certainly, I just point out that because we’re testing so much more, as Dr. Ezike is saying, we have thousands more people who are being detected with COVID-19. But as you may note, our positivity rate is going down across the state.
J.B. Pritzker: (38:29)
And that’s a very important thing, because we all knew that there were hundreds of thousands of people out there who have had, or will have, or currently have, COVID-19. But not all of them are getting tested. Some are asymptomatic for the entire time, and they may not go get tested.
J.B. Pritzker: (38:50)
And so we just need to pay attention to it. I know everybody turns on the TV and you see the climbing number of total cases that have existed in the state. But the reality is that we’re doing a better job than most other states at testing. And that’s revealing that indeed, there are cases out there.
J.B. Pritzker: (39:10)
If you don’t test, and take a look at some of the states out there that aren’t doing much testing, then you don’t report any cases. But the cases are there.
J.B. Pritzker: (39:20)
So anyway, I’d like to turn over that question about the mother and the child too-
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (39:26)
Yeah. That is obviously a significant tragedy. Any case of maternal mortality is something that is thoroughly investigated as part of our maternal mortality review committee.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (39:41)
We know that we have a high rate of maternal mortality. And that is one of the thrusts of the public health, of our agency, that we have a very robust review committee. We’ve put out a landmark study paper that we put out a year, I think, October of ’19. And we are looking forward to putting out the next one in short order.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (40:11)
This is an important issue that we are addressing while COVID is going on. That’s another issue that public health has to continue to address in terms of maternal mortality and the disparate rates of maternal mortality in communities and mothers of color.
Okay. I have another question for Dr. Ezike from Block Club. A World Health Organization doctor said today, coronavirus is not going anywhere and may end up being something like HIV that we will have to live with. They also warned mental health crisis linked to extended lockdowns. What do you think of this assessment? Is it possible that Phase 5 will happen with the virus still among us?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (40:52)
Yeah, we will have to see. Again, we’re taking this slowly.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (40:56)
I think it’s maybe under appreciated what we’re saying when we call this a novel coronavirus. We don’t exactly know all the characteristics of this virus we’re dealing with.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (41:07)
Of course, there’s research and we’re learning from what cases have been seen around the world. We’re learning from the cases that we have even here stateside.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (41:20)
But as we learn more… Again, this new pediatric inflammatory syndrome is being appreciated newly. So, there are new things that we find out almost every day.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (41:32)
Just two weeks ago, the CDC added some additional symptoms that seem to be coming up with increased frequency to suggest that they should be included as symptoms when you think about this COVID-19.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (41:44)
We see that potential potentially in pediatric cases, they might have a different presentation. There might be more vomiting and diarrhea.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (41:52)
So again, we are learning as we go. And so we need to have that time to be able to learn. So, being able to forecast and project too far ahead is difficult. We’re trying to use the best information we have, coupling it with information that we have from other viruses that may be similar. But even viruses in its same family, the SARS virus, the ma the MERS virus, those have shown quite different syndromes, quite different infectivity, quite different fatality rates.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (42:26)
So again, we are trying to get as much information as we can. And that’s why we have to follow the science and keep learning to make the best informed decisions that we can.
And doctor, about that mental health crisis, you’ve talked about this before. But people are getting angry. People are sad. There’s all sorts of emotions going on. Is there anything that you can tell people in Illinois as any sort of advice of how people should be coping through this crisis?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (42:53)
Oh, I forgot to address that.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (42:54)
Yes, that is a very serious issue. Again, this is an unprecedented situation, not just in terms of the amount of lives lost in this very short period of time, but for those who are living the complete disruption of their life, and for many of their actual livelihoods. People are experiencing this virus in very different ways.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (43:19)
And I am the first to acknowledge that someone who’s sitting at home and trying to shelter in place, but is still getting a paycheck is not at all in the same situation as someone who’s sitting at home, who’s not getting a paycheck and is worried about paying their car notes or their apartment rent or other bills or providing for their family.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (43:42)
So the mental health toll that that will take, that that is taking is significant. And there are some supports that are available through the state. We have hotlines that are available. We have some resources on our state websites.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (43:59)
We’re hoping that people are able to connect with others. Not physically, but if there are phone calls, if there are virtual connections, we’re hoping that people are using the electronic methods that we’re becoming more familiar with to be able to connect with people.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (44:17)
Tele-health and tele-mental health, being able to use this for tele-psychiatry, that is a very effective method of still getting the help that is needed. I think tele-health lends itself very well to dealing with mental health issues. And so I’m encouraging people, whether they want to seek help from a psychiatric provider, a mental health provider, a social worker, if they want to reach out to people in their faith community, please avail yourself of all of those options, because it is a real thing that this is causing a mental health strain on many people and some people much more.
Governor, I have a couple of questions about the positivity rate. And I would just like to say as a reporter, I think that a lot of people don’t understand what it is and how it’s being equated. What I was told is that it’s on a seven day rolling basis. Is there just a good explanation to everybody to understand the positivity rates of the regions, how we could find that, on a daily basis?
J.B. Pritzker: (45:18)
Yep. It’s on the IDPH website. You can take a look at the positivity rates for each region. And again, the goal here is to keep it below 20%. And indeed now, as of today, every region is currently on track to do that. There’s a rolling time period, 14 days, for measuring that. And so that allows us to make sure that again, we’re not experiencing a major surge. So that’s the purpose of that positivity rate.
J.B. Pritzker: (45:55)
Is there other explanation?
I guess people don’t understand if the North… I guess the Northeast region was at in lower than 20% rate. They’re trying to understand the clock, the process, of when that might progress.
J.B. Pritzker: (46:07)
Yeah. It’s essentially a rolling average, 14 days, for the positivity rate. And as it happens, the Northeast region was the only region that wasn’t meeting that metric for a number of days going back to May 1.
J.B. Pritzker: (46:25)
Now, as I have seen, as you can see, it’s below 20% on a rolling 14-day basis. And I think overall, if you look at the trend, the trend for the state and the trend for that region is downward. So I think that’s a very good sign that, as of the end of a 28-day period on the end of May 28th, that it’s highly that on that metric, the Northeast region, as well as the other regions, will meet that mark.
J.B. Pritzker: (46:58)
And then, we’ve got to look at the other marks, but it looks to me like they’re all on track to meet the other marks too, to move into Phase 3.
Okay. This question is from Molly Parker from the Southern Illinoisan. According to a PBS Chicago report, EMS Region Five did not receive any cases of remdesivir.
Dr. Ezike, your letter noted that 2% would go to the Southern region, but these regions combined longstanding EMS districts for a reopening plan and combined like this do not necessarily reflect hospital referral regions across expansive rural areas. We’ve been repeatedly told Southern Illinois hospitals could be quickly overrun by a rapid spike. And that’s why we should not move even slightly more quickly into Phase 3, despite currently low hospitalization rates.
Given that why did Region Five specifically not receive any of the medication and when might they expect to?
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (47:47)
Yes. Thank you for that question. So again, there were a limited number of cases that were given to us for allocation last weekend. There were, to be exact, there were 140 cases. We have 211 hospitals.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (48:03)
40 cases. We have 211 hospitals in the state. So by definition, every hospital was not going to be able to get a case and it was advised not to open up the case and start shipping individual vials, as you would risk vials getting broken in transport. And that would not be a good use of this valuable resource to have a certain percentage of it get destroyed or broken in transport. So they were delivered in whole cases, know that one case can only treat about five people. And so being able to give a hospital enough medicine to treat five people also seems like a very small amount. So I think the smallest amount that was given out was three cases.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (48:52)
But again, I was thinking of the Restore Illinois region so the four large regions that we think about, we did try to divide it according to that. The goal was to try to spread it out through all the regions. If there were more, it would have been able to go into each of the 11 regions. We are expecting another shipment. The federal government is promising to have ongoing shipments, we’re hoping weekly. And so if there’s another shipment this weekend that we receive, we will try to make sure that any region that did not get an allocation last weekend, will for sure get one this weekend. Thank you.
This question is from Cassie Walker Burke from Chartbeat. We’re hearing other states and cities tell school districts they need to start revising down their budgets for the next school year. We have not heard that in Illinois. Why?
J.B. Pritzker: (49:45)
Well, there’s going to be work on the state budget that’s done. There’s already been a lot of work by the working groups in Springfield or that are in the general assembly rather. And my administration has interacted with those working groups. So our hope is though that we’re going to get a kind of unified voice on the need for federal support for the states, and in particular for the state of Illinois. I hope that Republicans will step up, people in the general assembly, elected officials, the Republicans will step up and advocate for the state with their Republican colleagues in Congress, both in the House and in the Senate, even in other states.
J.B. Pritzker: (50:28)
Hearing from Republicans, maybe Republican senators will respond to better than hearing from Democrats. And we really should speak with one voice on this to the federal government, but all of that will have an effect on whether or not we’re able to fully fund schools to meet the evidence based funding that we all want to meet and to help the schools so that they’ll be ready for the fall. So that’s one of the reasons why haven’t heard a call for massive productions is because we’re right in the zone here where the House of Representatives voting on a package, the Senate, considering the packages and the general assembly in Springfield, a meeting next week. It all is happening in just a few week period. We’ll know much more in the next few weeks.
Tina, we’ll give you one more question.
Okay. Uh-oh. You got to pick one.
Let’s see. This is from Dan Patrola from the Tribune. How has your revenue projections for the fiscal year 2021 changed since you provided an update last month?
J.B. Pritzker: (51:38)
The revenue projections have not changed a whole lot. There were adjustments to our assumptions with regard to costs around Medicaid for example, that have adjusted, but the revenue projections for 2021 haven’t really changed a whole lot. Remember, we projected a fairly significant downturn. And so that’s what the budget making process is considering. I’ll take note that Tina just called on her colleague from a rival Chicago newspaper, which I think shows a lot of character on her part.
All right. Thank you. We will go to our online questions. Shia Politico, looking past the worst part of the pandemic, do you get a sense we’ll see a population shift from big cities like Chicago to smaller communities that are a petri dish for COVID-19 and other viruses?
J.B. Pritzker: (52:38)
That’s a great question. I haven’t considered that, but I must say that there has been an overall trend or at least at belief that there will be a trend of population movement from urban areas toward suburban and exurban and rural areas over time in part because of the expansion of broadband, which of course, we’re doing a lot of work on here in Illinois in our Rebuild Illinois infrastructure program invests $420 million in providing broadband everywhere. So I think that will be the thing that really moves people and less so worry about a future pandemic. I think at the moment, we’re in this moment where people aren’t going to move around, I don’t believe in the midst of this phase three, phase four hoping to get fate to phase five relatively quickly if we can. But I do think there’s a trend in the direction that you’re describing. I just think it may be for other reasons.
Greg Heinz at Cranes. Do you have any concern the Illinois Supreme Court will follow the lead of Wisconsin and strip you of your stay at home powers?
J.B. Pritzker: (53:48)
I don’t. I think that we’re well within the laws that exist in Illinois to have a disaster declaration. And if there’s an ongoing disaster, an ongoing emergency in Illinois as there is nationally and has been declared nationally, we’ll continue to work within the law to make sure that we’re keeping people safe.
Chris Carter at WA&D as a couple of questions that you’ve answered previously, but we’ll ask them here. Small business owners who have said after weeks of limited or no income, the added burden of a wage increase could put them under. Do you have any plans revisit pushing back the minimum wage increase effective date or plans to help these businesses?
J.B. Pritzker: (54:33)
The minimum wage won’t be moved back. The minimum wage is actually a fairly small item for most small businesses. The change is not. Some people think that we’ve gone from $8.25 to $15. That’s not what happened. It’s a very, very gradual movement in the minimum wage. Now, as to helping small businesses, we are doing quite a lot in that regard. I talked about it yesterday, the $90 million program that we created here just in the last two months and is still available to people. The $14 million hospitality focus program, which has already been expended, but that I think the legislature should include as we look to expand small business support. And I really think that we need to make sure that the federal dollars, that I’m hoping that we’ll all advocate for, that we’ll be able to provide specifically support for those small businesses that weren’t able to get PPP dollars, which were so hard to access. And so, we should have a program in the state for those smaller businesses that weren’t able to get those PPP dollars.
Okay. And one more repeat question. Most states around Illinois are reopened in some way with salons, et cetera, being allowed to reopen. Many communities are already losing thousands of dollars because of the stay at home order. And many people in border communities will see residents crossing state lines to get those services, which will hurt their bottom lines even more. How do you plan to help them? And what would your message be for those who plan to leave the state to go to do services next door?
J.B. Pritzker: (56:11)
Well, on the latter question, I would just remind people that the virus is out there just because people opened doesn’t mean that they don’t run the risk going into places of contracting it. Having said that, look we’re following the metrics for the state of Illinois. I wish we had a national plan that had been put in place by the president or the Congress, but there isn’t one. And so we’re doing what’s best for the people of Illinois. I know that the other governors around us may have different timetables.
J.B. Pritzker: (56:44)
And of course the Wisconsin governor and his I think reasonable timetable was blown up just yesterday by their Supreme Court. And so I think my job is to keep the people of Illinois safe. And I’m doing that. And remember for those who want to restart their businesses and want to patronize those businesses, the customers will go into them, we’re talking about a very short 14 days from now. And remember the reason that we’re all hanging on for those 14 days watching the metrics is because we want to make sure we do it in a way that keeps the most number of people safe from the virus.
This is from Tessa in Springfield. The five phase Restore Illinois program does not say when public pools and gyms can reopen up again. Do you know if that will happen in phase three?
J.B. Pritzker: (57:38)
It does talk about gyms actually in the phase three programs. So if you take a look, gyms are allowed to provide certain kinds of services, but not indoor with groups of people.
Rich Miller at Capital Facts. In as few words as humanly possible, can you please explain the science behind why Illinois, unlike almost anywhere else, uses a 28 day hospitalization metric instead of a 14 day metric? Thanks in advance for brevity and succinctness.
J.B. Pritzker: (58:12)
Thanks for the advice Rich. Remember that the phase that we’re in, phase two, began May 1st. We made changes as a result of the need to move into [ inaudible 00:58:30]. When you make changes from one phase to another, it means that we have to take a measure of how we’re doing within that phase so that we don’t have a search that will overcome our healthcare system. I will add that our plan only requires stabilization of these metrics, unlike the plan put out by the White House, unlike plans that were proposed in other states, which require 14 days of downward movement. Ours only requires stability. And if you look across the board in the state, we are roughly speaking, only stable, not moving downward. So it’s highly likely that we will move into phase three in a shorter period of time under the metrics that I put forward and not under the metrics that the White House would for me.
Sam at NPR Illinois. In case this doesn’t get asked Governor, can you speak to the phase and reopening plan your office has reached with the Catholic church, have any other denominations reached out to craft a similar plan?
J.B. Pritzker: (59:45)
Well, the Catholic church developed their own plan that fits well within the requirements of the state home order that we have in place and thinking about their plans with regard to phase three also fits within the Restore Illinois plan. So we advise them when they asked us for our advice and that was it. And I’m actually very pleased. I think they did an excellent job with the plan that they put forward. Other churches, other church leaders have also reached out and we’ve tried to provide guidance. Each one has a different set of concerns about the rituals of their particular denomination. And so we’ve provided the advice from our department of public health as appropriate for those denominations.
Trudy at Bloomberg will be our last question. Some businesses and regions, including southern Illinois, State County or local officials and health departments should make decisions about whether they should open, not the state or the governor. Who has the authority or who should have the authority now, the county or the state?
J.B. Pritzker: (01:00:54)
Well, we’re under a pandemic, a worldwide pandemic, an emergency, a disaster declaration. There’s a reason why those exist in the law. And it’s because you want to make sure that we’re marshaling all of our resources as a state to deal with something this large. And so it is important that the state set ground rules, that the executive orders under the existing law set the ground rules for us in order to deal with it. And guess what, it’s been working. Our curve is bent and it is flattening and that didn’t just happen by accident. It happened because we put executive orders in and people have followed those orders. So I would just suggest that for now, this is working. People need to follow it. As we move into phase three and phase four, very important that we not overrun our healthcare system. We keep people safe.
J.B. Pritzker: (01:01:54)
And of course, it’s my goal for us to get back to normal. I want for every region and everybody in the state of Illinois to be doing precisely what they’d like to be doing right now, but we are facing a very difficult circumstance. One last thing to say. Local officials have been very collaborative with us, the local county departments of public health, the many of the county board chairs across the state and local mayors. It’s the loudest votes that you’re hearing from, and not the vast majority of the almost 1300 municipalities that exist in the state or the 102 counties. It’s just the very loud voices of people who are being defiant and ignoring science and data.
All right, that’ll do it for today. Thank you everyone. We’ll see you again tomorrow.
J.B. Pritzker: (01:02:49)