May 8, 2020

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript May 8

Illinois Briefing May 8
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsIllinois Governor J.B. Pritzker Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript May 8

Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois held a COVID-19 briefing May 8. He announced that testing in Illinois has passed 20,000 a day. Read the full transcript of his press conference speech.

 

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J.B. Pritzker: (00:00)
…time exceeding 20,000 tests. It’s because of the great work of IDPH and its lab professionals, our raw materials procurement teams, our instate research university partners, our partner hospitals, health centers and clinics, private testing laboratories, the Illinois National Guard at our drive-through sites, and many others working collaboratively across the public and private sectors. As of May 6th, Illinois ranks second among the 10 most populous states in the number of tests completed per capita over the last seven days. And Illinois is fifth among all 50 states in total tests completed since the beginning of this pandemic. We now have 244 public testing sites across the state, up from 177 on April 30th, and 112 on April 24th. In building out these sites, we’ve made it a priority to partner directly with existing trusted organizations to test people across Illinois. Places like federally qualified health centers, we now partner with 96 of those statewide, and other community centric providers.

J.B. Pritzker: (01:20)
These sites also include our seven State-run drive throughs at Markham, Bloomington, Harwood Heights, Rockford, Aurora, Waukegan, and East St. Louis, which are now collectively taking over 3000 specimens per day. We will be setting up an additional three drive through sites next week, and I look forward to announcing those locations in the coming days. As for the locations of those 244 sites, also available in our interactive map form on our coronavirus.illinois.gov website, just to give you an outline of where those sites are. 22 of them are in the Rockford region, 22 in the Peoria region, 8 sites in Springfield, 10 sites in the Edwardsville region, 36 sites in the Marian region, 19 sites in the Champaign region, and in Cook County and the collar counties. 52 sites in the city of Chicago, 26 sites in the Southwest suburbs, 9 sites in the West suburbs, 20 sites in the Northwest suburbs, and 20 sites in the North suburbs.

J.B. Pritzker: (02:35)
A quick update. I mentioned last week that the White House has promised us 620,000 individual swabs and 465,000 vials of VTM by the end of May. The first shipment of which had been scheduled to arrive in the first week of May. We were notified that the shipment has now been pushed back to Sunday, May 10th. When they arrive, those will be an important part of our further testing growth.

J.B. Pritzker: (03:04)
Testing is fundamental to our ability to reopen the economy while controlling the spread of the virus. That’s what it takes to keep the public safe. The progress we’ve made on testing over the last two months, building a statewide testing program from scratch to around 15 to 20 thousand tests per day is tremendous. Even if we’re one of the best states in the nation on testing, we know it’s not enough to be where we need to be on a longer timeframe.

J.B. Pritzker: (03:33)
I’m committed to continuing our successes on this front because it is fundamental to our economic future and to keeping Illinoisans safe while Covid-19 is still out there. In just a moment, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Aaron Rossi to offer a firsthand look at his laboratory’s work to help Illinois fight Covid-19. But first, I want to briefly talk about an important recognition. For more than two decades, the Friday before Mother’s Day has been celebrated as Childcare Provider Appreciation Day. A nod to the incredible workforce that cares for, and educates most of our children during some of their most formative years. Even in the best of times, these caregivers and providers are often under-recognized for their critical role in advancing equity in education, supporting women in the workforce, and investing in our future. So on this Provider Appreciation Day, I want to offer my deepest gratitude to the more than 2,500 centers and homes that have opened their doors to offer emergency childcare to our essential workforce. As well as many others who are getting ready to reopen and get back to the work that they love, caring for Illinois’ children. So, thank you. And now I’d like to turn it over to the CEO of Reditus Labs, Aaron Rossi.

Dr. Aaron Rossi: (05:03)
Thank you, Governor. So just to announce a little bit about ourselves, we have two businesses in Downstate Illinois, one being Pal Health Technologies which is manufacturing custom face shields for many employers across the country. Along with Reditus Laboratories, as the governor mentioned. We have hired approximately 75 new employees in the last three to four weeks.

Dr. Aaron Rossi: (05:29)
At Reditus we had a platform for PCR, before Covid crisis hit, within our lab. Once Covid struck, we pivoted quickly and had a few discussions with UnityPoint Health to decide to make the investment to become testing, to try to help the state and the country provide more tests for the citizens.

Dr. Aaron Rossi: (05:51)
Currently, we work around the clock, 24/7, providing tests for several state drive through locations, Heartland Health in Peoria, along with large employers across the country. However, we’re absolutely partial to our home state of Illinois and have just increased our capacity to 4,000 tests we’ll be able to offer per day, with our partner Thermo Fisher.

Dr. Aaron Rossi: (06:13)
Most importantly, I’d like to congratulate the governor and the state officials for reaching the milestones that they have today with the approximately 22,000 tests that were performed. Many of those we were able to help participate and partake in. I also want to make sure that everybody understands the work that goes in, and around the clock, from state officials from the Governor’s Office, from my IEMA, from IDPH. Particularly, Justin DeWitt, has done a great job in collaborating with me, and Matt Charles from the lab of the State of Illinois and the local officials in Springfield.

Dr. Aaron Rossi: (06:51)
Also, of all of our efforts we’ve made possible without our partnership with UnityPoint Health and our pathologist at Peoria Tazewell Pathology Group, Thermo Fisher, and the City of Pekin. Mayor Mark Luft was extremely influential in this early decision of how we got off the board and on the ground testing. And all the employees that took part in this at work around the clock with myself, the businesses, none of this would be possible without them.

Dr. Aaron Rossi: (07:17)
Our goal is to continue to support the governor to reopen the state by providing access to testing to the best of our efforts, and to get life back to what we remember before and try and open the state up as quickly as possible. With that, I’d like to turn it back over to the governor for questions.

J.B. Pritzker: (07:33)
Thank you, very much. Thanks, Sean. Aaron, sorry.

Speaker 1: (07:45)
Thank you, Governor. Happy Friday.

J.B. Pritzker: (07:48)
Happy Friday to you.

Speaker 1: (07:49)
On behalf of [inaudible 00:07:49], happy Mother’s Day weekend, as well, to everybody. I want to start with a question from Mary Ann at NBC5 who asked, “Obviously, the mayor had her news conference a short time ago. A couple of differences in the timetables, hers talks about 14 day timetables across all of the important metrics. You have 28 days on hospital admissions. Can you explain the difference? Are you considering making revisions to 14 days as well?”

J.B. Pritzker: (08:15)
No, but I think if you look at the mayor’s plan, and of course mayor and I have spoken about this plan before and indeed earlier today, it really is within the parameters of the plan that we put forward. In other words, it is likely that because they have some more stringent parts of their plan that when you put all of the pieces of it together, from a timing perspective it will fit I think nicely into the framework that we put forward. And I think, other local governments should be considering doing the same thing. Thinking about how they can fit their timetables for opening businesses that are particular to their area of the state, within the timetables that we’ve laid out. Because those are the safety guidance and guidelines that we’ve set out. But local governments, like the City of Chicago, are allowed to be more stringent than the State.

Speaker 1: (09:11)
A couple of medical questions, perhaps for the doctor. This is the fourth day in a row of 100 plus fatalities. I believe that’s the first time we’ve hit four days of a triple digit. What does this suggest in terms of where we are and what the trend says?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (09:26)
Again, I think people who study statistics know that you can’t go by a couple of days, it’s the average and where we’re going. I think if you look at our averages per week, we definitely have hit a peak of deaths maybe two weeks, maybe a week ago? So, I don’t think overall this is one of our heaviest weeks, even though there may have been a cluster of deaths that were reported that seemed high four days in a row. But if you maybe take the aggregate and look at weeks, I don’t think this week has been worse than last week. So again, looking day to day or even looking at several days is a little bit harder.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (10:09)
I think when you stand back and take a week at a time, we can get bigger trends and get a more balanced view. Overall, I think we’re going in the right direction. I think, definitely, this week we have had less deaths than last week.

Speaker 1: (10:27)
[inaudible 00:10:27] is that as important of a metric as positivity rate, hospital admissions, things like that?

Dr. Ngozi Ezike: (10:31)
Well, they’re related. They’re all related. So you could imagine that the deaths might be proportional to people being hospitalized. People being hospitalized will be proportional to the number of people who got infected. So, I think it’s a continuum. If you think of how the disease would happen, first there would be the virus, somebody would get infected, somebody might get sick, somebody might get hospitalized, might get into the ICU, might perish. There is a continuum there, so all of these statistics-

Dr. Ezike: (11:03)
There is a continuum there. All of these statistics and these metrics actually do relate to one another.

Eric: (11:07)
While you’re there, a couple of questions about the Kawasaki-type symptoms that some of the kids are facing who have tested for the COVID antibodies. I think New York, today, said more than 70 cases. Can you give us a snapshot on this inflammatory syndrome with children in Illinois?

Dr. Ezike: (11:24)
Yes. We have not made that a reportable illness. We are actually going to make that a reportable illness in terms of that specific population of having kids having this Kawasaki-like presentation. As we require it to be reported, we’ll be able to get accurate data on what’s happening. Again, this is a new phenomenon that has been recognized, associated with COVID. Again, we haven’t talked much about kids having a major part of this pandemic. Again, this is a new virus. We’re learning things. As we look around the world and see other things that are happening, that will also help us figure out what things we may need to be looking closer at.

Eric: (12:12)
Several weeks ago… It feels like a lifetime ago. Sadly, there was an infant that passed. I think there was an investigation. I don’t know if there was any follow-up. Do you have any information on the infant? Is it possibly related to this syndrome that we’re looking at?

Dr. Ezike: (12:26)
Yes, that’s a great question. I didn’t hear that in combination with that. I think my colleagues at the Chicago Department of Health… Because it was in that jurisdiction, we’re trying to follow through with that. We can touch base with those colleagues to see if there’s any connection to the Kawasaki syndrome.

Eric: (12:47)
There was never any conclusion on positive death or anything like that?

Dr. Ezike: (12:51)
Yes. Again, I think that the Chicago Department has the most final report. We were trying to work in tandem in terms of that information, but we can get that information, as well.

J.B. Pritzker: (13:05)
They decided to take over that investigation, which was fine. They have the capability to do that, so I would suggest asking them.

Dr. Ezike: (13:12)
Governor, a couple of questions from folks just regarding restaurants. Restaurants… They are desperately asking that they can reopen in phase three, perhaps at 25% capacity. This is an industry that’s used to being regulated. They’re great at compliance. They’re professionals. What are the experts telling you, the scientists and the epidemiologists, about why 25% capacity in phase three can’t happen according to your plan?

J.B. Pritzker: (13:38)
Yes. I mean, I’ll give you the reverberation. This is now secondhand information. Maybe Dr. Ezike has something to add, too, because she’s been in many of those conversations, too. First of all, I mean, I want, as much as anyone, to make sure that small businesses are able to open. So many restaurants and bars out there, some people who’ve risked their capital, and their time, and effort, and energy to start those businesses… I know they are devastated. It’s why I support Sam Toia, who’s the head of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He’s right that there ought to be support for the restaurant industry that comes out of the supports, the CARES Act-type supports, that come out of Washington D.C.

J.B. Pritzker: (14:27)
In terms of why the epidemiologists have seen restaurants as more difficult to open than, let’s say, other kinds of small shops, my understanding of it is that because it’s very difficult to socially distance as between a server and the food, the server, the food, and delivery of the food to the table. It’s also difficult even to seat people at tables the way they’re normally configured in a six-foot distance for everybody that’s sitting at a table. That’s my understanding of why… I think you can probably add to that the dishwasher, and the person who’s the chef in the back, the bartender, and so on. Just the number of people who kind of come in contact with the thing that you’re ultimately getting delivered to you and they can’t be delivered in a socially distanced way is the reason. Perhaps, Dr. Ezike, I don’t know if you have anything to add to that at all. I don’t want to put you on the spot. I think that’s roughly the explanation that I understand.

J.B. Pritzker: (15:32)
That doesn’t mean that it can never happen. It does mean that we want to make sure that when it does get phased in, that there’s a way to do it that doesn’t involve quite so many interactions and, or that we make sure that we’ve seen the effect of all the other industries that will open because we think that that reopening might… Even though I know restaurateurs want to do the right thing and will work very hard to make sure that the sanitary conditions are right, but I think that, again, as I understand it, because of the nature of the way that these things are served and so on, it’s difficult to do. We have to watch all these other industries open and see what effect that has on all the numbers as we think about opening restaurants and bars, which could open in phase four, which is just the next phase after phase three.

Eric: (16:26)
Are you on the phone with Senator Durbin, with other congressional representatives, regarding a federal bailout or relief package specific to restaurants because, as you indicated, they’re really calling for that right now?

J.B. Pritzker: (16:38)
Yes. I’ve been on the phone. I have been in contact with the Restaurant Association and with many of the people in the industry about that. Certainly, as I discuss the broader issue of support for state, and local governments, and small businesses with our federal representatives, I try always to bring in the different industries that I think that are particular to Illinois. This is a good example because we have so many restaurants, and so many great restaurants in Illinois, that attract people from around the world. Yes, I try to bring up the industries that are most affected by COVID-19.

Eric: (17:15)
Because the restaurant see how you went to bat for the hospitals, for instance, for the CARES Act, they want to see your support for-

J.B. Pritzker: (17:22)
I do. To be clear, I just didn’t want to overstate. I mean, I do. There are other industries that I also talk about. I didn’t want to overstate how I talk about restaurants. I do believe that Sam Toia and the industry is correct, that they deserve support. So many small businesses and so many people depend upon those jobs as entry-level jobs as well as permanent positions.

Eric: (17:44)
A couple of questions here regarding unemployment. Megan Hickey, CBS2 asking… We’re continuing to hear from unemployment claimants who are sitting out penalty weeks, sometimes several months before they can collect unemployment insurance even if they have already paid back the money that is owed. California is allowing those on penalty weeks to collect the PUA assistance funds. New York is proposing a bill to suspend penalty weeks. Where do you stand on Illinois’s rules given the extraordinary circumstances that we’re seeing?

J.B. Pritzker: (18:15)
As I understand it, other states that have the resources to do it are not following the federal guidelines and just doing it out of their state funds, hoping that later the federal government, in the audit of it, will reimburse them for what they’ve done. That’s something that’s very difficult for the state of Illinois to do. We don’t have the resources, even in this situation, to just advance those. Having said that, we’re trying hard to make sure that people can get access to benefits as fast as possible. People who are on penalty weeks… It’s a difficult circumstance because sometimes they’re on penalty weeks because of fraud. Sometimes they’re on penalty weeks because inadvertent fraud, perhaps, right? Those things need to be arbitrated. Those arbitrations have to take place.

J.B. Pritzker: (19:07)
I mean, again, this is a federal program that we implement at the state level. We want to do it in the right way. It is. It’s a terrible circumstance, I know, for people who are on these penalty weeks because it feels to them like they’re getting penalized unduly in this terrible circumstance. It is part of the challenge of the federal rules here because we’ve tried to make due for a lot of people who may not qualify one way or another to make sure they’re getting supports. It’s certainly very challenging.

Eric: (19:45)
Dorothy Tucker, also from CBS2. We are in contact with a person who has been approved for unemployment, has their debit card, but never applied for the benefit. How does something like that happen when there are hundreds of people who applied for benefits and they’re still waiting?

J.B. Pritzker: (19:58)
She received a debit card, never applied for unemployment. Is that what she suggested?

Eric: (20:02)
According to what Dorothy is-

J.B. Pritzker: (20:04)
Yes, I do not know. The KeyBank provides those cards. There may be something to do with her if she has a bank account at KeyBank or something else. I really don’t know the circumstance.

Eric: (20:15)
Her colleague, Tiffani Lupenski, also from CBS2. Governor, in your briefing yesterday, you used the phrase quote, “clean claims,” for the first time when referring to the percentage of unemployment claims IDES has processed since this all started. Prior to yesterday, both you and IDES had simply touted that Illinois had processed 99.9% of claims. Why did you start using the qualifier “clean claims?” What do you mean by that phrase?

J.B. Pritzker: (20:43)
I don’t think I ever said 99.9% before yesterday. Clean claims are those circumstances where people don’t fall into a circumstance where there’s some exception that that doesn’t fit the form, something that isn’t easily demonstrated in the online system. Most people fit. I mean, vast majority of people fit into the system. They can cite where they worked for how many weeks, or months, or years, their salary, and so on. It all works perfectly. Others may have more unusual circumstances where they worked for an employer that isn’t listed somewhere, that can’t be found in a database easily, or they were in a position that is deemed to not have existed, let’s say. There’s some interaction that is required. It’s not clean, so they get rejected or the claim doesn’t get accepted. Then they have to go into this process of either speaking to somebody by phone, or writing letters, or some other thing, or working with our chat bot, or other things online. It’s not a clean submission.

Speaker 3: (22:00)
Eric, we’re going to let you have one more in the room and then we’re going to go online.

Speaker 4: (22:02)
Eric, we’re going to let you have one more in the room and then we’re going to go online.

Eric: (22:02)
Okay. Amy Jacobson from WID asking if Chicago sports teams can’t play in front of fans later this summer or fall, do you support the idea of letting them play in neighboring states?

J.B. Pritzker: (22:18)
I have. Well I would listen, we’re going to work very hard to have them play here. I have spoken with the commissioners of the various major leagues and they all are looking for ways to do it safely. They want to protect their players. None of them has suggested to me short of getting to a stage five really that they would have fans or many fans in the stands. They are all looking for television, the ability to broadcast a game.

J.B. Pritzker: (22:56)
And so as far as neighboring [inaudible 00:22:59], we have all the facilities here for them to do it. We would want to see their plan. All of them have suggested that they are putting a plan together or they already have put a plan together and they intend to submit it to have it reviewed by our medical experts and by me. And to make sure that it fits with the stages and considerations that we’ve made for businesses here.

J.B. Pritzker: (23:20)
But look, I’m the first person, I want to see sports play and I think it’s good for everybody. I think they can do it here in Illinois and especially if you look at the timetable, there’s a high likelihood that they could do it within a timetable that we’re hoping that we’ll be able to reopen many businesses.

Speaker 4: (23:40)
Okay. Tristan Hardy at WAND has a question that we are going to amend so we can get multiple questions out of the way. So Governor, are you aware of the back to business plan made by Representative Wilhour and Bailey in an effort to reopen central Illinois regions? Is this something you’ll consider? There are also many questions about XYZ plan from various places around the state. So let’s answer that all at once.

J.B. Pritzker: (24:02)
Yeah. So I am aware of multiple plans from multiple places around the state of Illinois. I think this demonstrates to you why there ought to have been a federal plan that was put forward because now what you’ve got is a patchwork of states doing different things. Some of us creating pacts in various regions of the country and now you see counties want to put together their own plans. Cities want to work with other cities, mayors talking to each other, submitting plans. Everybody’s got a different plan.

J.B. Pritzker: (24:37)
The truth is this is why you need leadership. This is why you need to make sure that we’ve got a plan that works for the regions, that allows regions to move forward or backward if they’re meeting or not meeting the requirements for health. But I have read many of these plans that have been put and I’ve included many of those ideas in our go forward recovery Illinois, restore Illinois plan.

Speaker 4: (25:06)
Marnie Pyke at the Daily Herald. Should parents assume that summer camps will be canceled this year?

J.B. Pritzker: (25:12)
I mean I suppose it depends upon the timing. I wouldn’t assume anything and I would look very intently for whether treatments are being developed that will be appropriate for us to change the playbook because that’s what I’m really hoping we’ll be able to do. And of course in stage four, in phase four we’ll be able to have 50 person gatherings and that is something that would work with summer programs. Maybe not overnight camps, but there certainly could be camps of 50 people together.

Speaker 4: (25:44)
Dan Petrella at the Chicago Tribune. You said the other day that you don’t think the public will want to go to restaurants too soon. Has the industry’s response to your reopening plan changed your thinking at all? Also, why doesn’t your plan require a decrease in cases like Mayor Lightfoot’s?

J.B. Pritzker: (26:00)
So I think if you look at other states that have simply flung the doors open on their restaurants, you’ve seen that the expectation was very high that people would go rushing back to restaurants. They haven’t. And so that’s why I made the comment that that I did make. And why doesn’t my plan include?

Speaker 4: (26:20)
Decreases in cases like-

J.B. Pritzker: (26:21)
A decreases.

Speaker 4: (26:22)
… in Mayor Lightfoot’s?

J.B. Pritzker: (26:22)
That’s a different approach that they’ve taken. That is absolutely something that we considered, but I just want to say that for those who think that we ought to be opening more quickly. I would say that our plan makes it more likely that one could open at the end of May then than some other plans. And so I just say that requiring a decrease as opposed to stability when we have hospital availability, if you meet all the other criteria. Then making sure you have positivity rates at a certain level, hospital availability at a certain level and so on. Those things all work in tandem with one another to get us a healthy reopening. So I think the Mayor’s plan is a good one for Chicago. I haven’t looked at it in detail, at least in the last day if any changes were made. But it’s a good plan that fits within the plans that we have for the state.

Speaker 4: (27:27)
Hannah at the Daily Line. Governor, hundreds of thousands of people use public transit in Illinois every day during normal times. When the Northeast region eventually reaches phase four where gatherings of 50 or fewer are permitted, what direction will you give the RTA? Will there be limits on the number of people in train cars or buses? Will large downtown companies who have a lot of employees coming into the loop be required to participate in some sort of agreement of staggered work from home days to get ridership down?

J.B. Pritzker: (27:53)
We will certainly be working on staggered work hours with the major businesses in all across the state, honestly, that are reliant upon mass transit. But that’ll obviously be much of a concentrated in the collar counties and Cook County. It is very important that we have our mass transit clean and make sure that it is COVID free and that we protect all the people who are riding on mass transit. And that’s something that I’ve expressed to the Mayor and to many of the surrounding county leaders because we just have to make sure that people can use mass transit in a reopening society on a regular basis. Otherwise, we won’t be able to reopen safely.

Speaker 4: (28:41)
Yana at WBEZ. Lori Lightfoot said today she is determined to open schools this fall. Do you have a response to that statement and whether you’re considering this for the state?

J.B. Pritzker: (28:51)
I think we’re all determined. We’re all want very badly for schools to open and that that is my hope and desire. I think that’s what she is expressing as well. And planning, I think you’ve got to do planning for reopening in the fall. So none of us knows what the future exactly holds, but I think we have a great hope that and desire for reopening schools when they usually would.

Speaker 4: (29:19)
Mike at Quincy TV. Congressmen LaHood joined two state lawmakers for a press conference in Quincy today. They say you should visit Quincy to see your impact the order is having downstate. Will you leave Chicago?

J.B. Pritzker: (29:30)
Yeah. And you know that I have regular contact with people in Quincy. I certainly understand, read the newspapers, understand the challenges that all the areas of the state are undergoing. I think that someone who lives in Quincy can understand what’s going on in Cook County and the collar counties just as easily as somebody who may be standing in the Cook and the collar counties can understand by reading what’s going on in their area.

J.B. Pritzker: (30:00)
But I look forward to traveling around the state and to speaking with elected officials and people about the challenges that people are having. And most importantly, I think rather than traveling, is just addressing those challenges, which is what we’ve been doing for two months now. This is my 61st day straight on the job, not just standing in front of a microphone, but working for the people of Illinois on this coronavirus crisis. And I’m not going to stop until we overcome it and I’m not going to stop until we revive the economy. It’s our obligation. We’ve got to get things moving again safely for our families.

Speaker 4: (30:43)
Mark Maxwell, WCIA. A restaurant owner in Southern Illinois reopened his restaurant this morning with plans to space people out to practice social distancing. He says the local health department called and threatened revoke his food permit. Now he plans to sue. Why isn’t the state’s criteria to reopen based on an individual business’s ability to practice social distancing?

J.B. Pritzker: (31:05)
Because this virus isn’t limited to the four walls of that one business. That’s why.

Speaker 4: (31:12)
Dave McKinney at WBEZ. Exelon had its quarterly earnings call today and said it wants Springfield to deliver a subsidy package for its struggling nuclear plants by the end of May or possibly the summer. Is that a priority for you right now? And how big of a problem is it for Exelon to advance any kind of agenda at the Capitol with all of the investigations into its lobbying activities still unresolved?

J.B. Pritzker: (31:31)
Yeah. I’ve said that we’re going to make sure that we work on an energy package for the state and we don’t need the high paid lobbyists to be guiding that for us. I think the legislature has been working on this for some time. I have been working on it for some time and I can’t tell you exactly when something will get passed on it. My hope is that the legislature has been continuing its work in the working groups that have been created for it as it has on so many other topics. And I look forward to the legislature getting together again to address so many challenges that we have. But is it true that there are higher priorities right now? Yes. There are higher priorities right now and that’s reviving our economy.

Speaker 4: (32:16)
Scott Miller WJBC radio in Bloomington. The city of Bloomington has canceled the 4th of July fireworks display. Do you recommend more cities and towns do this considering it’s a gathering of more than 50 people?

J.B. Pritzker: (32:28)
Again, I think people can read for themselves what the health consequences are of not following the rules that we’ve put in place for each phase. So I think those are decisions that will have to be made at the local level. And again, I’m hoping that by July there will be some areas that will be able to have gatherings of 50 or less, but there’s no guarantee of that. And we’re watching it for the data, the science to determine whether and when these things can take place.

Speaker 4: (32:59)
Rich Miller at Capital Facts. Massachusetts and Illinois both reached 1,000 cases within two-

Speaker 4: (33:03)
…Real facts. Massachusetts and Illinois both reached 1000 cases within two days of each other. Massachusetts started contact tracing in April, and they now have 1600 investigators. Why is Illinois so far behind Massachusetts?

J.B. Pritzker: (33:12)
Actually, we’ve been contact tracing since the very beginning, and I think Dr. Ezike was suggesting that earlier. Remember, we have local county public health departments. They have health workers, neighborhood health workers, so does the city of Chicago, Cook County, and other counties. So it’s not that there’s no contact tracing going on. What we’re spinning up in Illinois is a much more robust contact tracing effort, and it is like the one in Massachusetts, and indeed we are following the model of Massachusetts, taking a lot of advice from Massachusetts, and we are working hard to spin that up, but remember that much of what Massachusetts has is much of what Illinois will be starting with, which is all of the existing contact tracing that’s already going on, and then we’ll be adding on workers and volunteers on top of that.

Speaker 4: (34:05)
Okay. Kelly at Block Club will be our last question today. Black and Latino people have disproportionately lost their jobs due to this pandemic, according to today’s jobs report. What will the state do to help workers of color who have been impacted by this?

J.B. Pritzker: (34:18)
Yeah, well you know that what we’re trying to do as we reopen the economy is to make sure we’re providing supports for families as they get their jobs back or as they go seek a new job. It’s very important to me in particular that we, you know, those communities have been left out and left behind for decades, are the ones who are the first ones that are affected when we’ve got a downturn. And this downturn, which is caused by this invisible enemy, has so badly affected communities of color. So we’ve got to make sure that we’re focused on providing supports for communities. And by the way, that also includes everybody else in the state that has been so badly affected. So those supports, though, in the communities that are poorest, to the communities that are most hard hit, are vitally important. So that’s part of what we’ll do.

J.B. Pritzker: (35:07)
And then of course, trying to revitalize the industries that employ many people across the state, in particular communities of color, is part of the plan going forward. The plan that we put forward for restoring and reopening the state is just a beginning. Economic development, encouraging the creation of or the rebuilding of small businesses, has got to be a vital part of what we do to build up the economy of the state in the aftermath, or at least as we’re trying to deal with COVID-19 in a phase three, phase four, and phase five world. And that’s one of the reasons that I’ve gone back to Washington DC, to the people in Washington DC, to ask them for support for the state so we can do the work on the ground that a broad federal program can’t do, and that’s helping put back these jobs that have been lost.

Speaker 4: (36:06)
Thank you, everyone.

J.B. Pritzker: (36:06)
Yep, thank you.