Dec 4, 2020

J.B. Pritzker COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 4

JB Pritzker Press Conference December 4
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsJ.B. Pritzker COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 4

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker held a December 4 coronavirus news briefing. Read the full transcript of the news conference here.

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Gov. Pritzker: (00:00)
December 10th and December 17th for Pfizer and Moderna, respectively. About six weeks ago, October 21st, Dr. Ezike and I presented to you Illinois’ framework for distributing vaccines in line with the CDC’s recommendations. We walked through with you the unknowns about the vaccines. Things like how many doses would each person need, and what the storage requirements would likely be. The FDA has since provided more information that fill in the unknowns. Although they’re still in the process of evaluating the vaccine candidates to ensure the utmost safety and efficacy.

Gov. Pritzker: (00:45)
We now know that first up in the FDA’s review will be the Pfizer vaccine, which recorded an incredible 95% effective rate across a trial of 43,000 participants. This vaccine requires two doses given three weeks apart, and requires extremely cold storage. It must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius in a specialized freezer that shouldn’t be opened more than twice a day, and only for about one minute at a time. Once thawed, it can be kept at a more typical refrigeration temperature for about five days.

Gov. Pritzker: (01:27)
Then there’s the Moderna candidate. Similar to Pfizer’s, Moderna’s vaccine saw 94% effectiveness across 30,000 trial participants. Moderna also requires two doses administered four weeks apart. In terms of storage, the Moderna vaccine requires only a standard freezer temperature for up to six months, and can be refrigerated for 30 days and left at room temperature for up to 12 hours. And multiple other vaccine candidates, like those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, are in their final stages of evaluation.

Gov. Pritzker: (02:09)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Illinois will only distribute a vaccine that is deemed safe. In addition to the thorough review at the FDA, Illinois is one of many states that have established additional review panels, including Indiana, California, New York, West Virginia, and Michigan. There’s an all hands on deck effort to ensure the most thorough evaluation possible, but all signs to date are astoundingly promising. Never before have we seen an early vaccine study, like the studies that have come out for these vaccines, of this scale that have demonstrated such high levels of protection.

Gov. Pritzker: (02:55)
The CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices, ACIP, an esteemed group of public health and medical professionals has provided an initial set of recommendations on who should receive the first round of available vaccines. Their focus, initially, is on the nation’s 21 million healthcare workers and three million long-term care residents. This is phase 1a of vaccine distribution. The goal here is to fortify the healthcare workforce by removing these most exposed workers from the cycle of quarantine illness and infection, as well as protecting our most vulnerable residents. Nationally long-term care facility residents represent 6% of known COVID-19 cases, but 40% of known COVID-19 deaths.

Gov. Pritzker: (03:55)
In Illinois, we have 655,000 people who qualify as frontline healthcare worker. That breaks down to about 162,000 in Chicago and 493,000 outside of Chicago. And I’m making that clear because the federal government has decided to deliver to the nation’s largest cities, places like Chicago and Los Angeles and New York City, a separate direct supply of the vaccine. We also have about 110,000 adults statewide who live in congregate settings, like long-term care facilities or assisted living residences. Approximately 16,000 of whom live in Chicago.

Gov. Pritzker: (04:41)
The City of Chicago’s distribution will operate in tandem with the rest of the state, and we’re in communication with city officials as they work to distribute the allocation that they get directly. If the Pfizer vaccine receives federal approval on December 10th, we’ve been informed that Illinois is currently slated to get 109,000 doses of the vaccine sometime during the week after next, that breaks down to 23,000 to the City of Chicago directly and 86,000 to the rest of the State of Illinois. There will be shipments of more and more vaccine each week following that first shipment’s arrival. So although the numbers now may seem relatively small in comparison to our population, those numbers will increase over the subsequent weeks and months.

Gov. Pritzker: (05:34)
In Illinois to implement the recommendations of ACIP and the CDC, the very first vaccinations will be dedicated to hospitals and healthcare workers in the 50 counties with the highest death rates per capita. And in just a moment, Dr. Ezike will dive into the details of that distribution model and how we’re assisting local health departments across the state through this process.

Gov. Pritzker: (06:02)
Some quick math will tell you that it’s going to take multiple weeks of distribution to even get our healthcare workers their first of the two doses that they require, while also getting to the long-term care facility residents. But remember, nationally, those two groups equal about 24 million people. ACIP has prioritized not only healthcare workers and long-term care residents, but also frontline, what they’re calling, essential workers, including first responders, all those older than age 65, and those who have multiple comorbidities or high-risk medical conditions. And ACIP is expected to soon offer further guidance on the order of those groups after phase 1a.

Gov. Pritzker: (06:49)
Manufacturing, distribution, and administering enough vaccine to cover these prioritized candidates will take some time, more than just the next few weeks. We also know that for many reasons, black and brown Americans have disproportionately suffered deaths from COVID-19 in their communities. ACIP is currently considering specific allocations of the vaccine before expanding to the remainder of the population, and Illinois will account for their expert recommendation in the next tiers of distribution with a focused eye on equity.

Gov. Pritzker: (07:29)
In other words, this will not be a quick process with the two dose timeline no single person will be fully vaccinated even by Christmas, and it will likely be months before people with low risk factors for COVID-19 see their first dose. But the very fact that we have this timeline is the result of incredible private sector innovation and longstanding public investment in scientific research. The research capability and technology and good old fashioned American ingenuity that has helped develop these vaccines is truly something that we all should be proud of. I know that for some people, the same extraordinary timeline that speaks to the power of science may also lend itself to some hesitations, but while these COVID-19 vaccines are breaking records in their development speed, I want to make clear to everyone that these researchers didn’t start from scratch. BioEnTech, the German counterpart to Pfizer in the first vaccine, was founded over a decade ago, specifically to study R, sorry, mRNA technology, the foundation of the Pfizer vaccine. Unlike many standard vaccines, mRNA vaccines don’t require any deactivated version of the virus they prevent to produce. That’s a breakthrough that allows vaccines to be produced efficiently and affordably in a lab at a much faster rate than in years past.

Gov. Pritzker: (09:11)
Nearly a year ago, in early January, the University of Sydney professor uploaded the genetic sequence of this virus as identified by [Yong-Zhen Zhang 00:00:09:21] of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and School of Public Health before the virus even had a name. That allowed scientists here in the US and around the world to immediately dive into the work of developing treatments and vaccines to beat the disease that came to be known a little bit later as COVID-19. But years before that, researchers at the National Institutes of Health here in the United States were making major strides in evaluating spike proteins in other kinds of coronaviruses, laying the groundwork for these new COVID-19 vaccines, and allowing companies like Pfizer and Moderna to move as fast as they have. It’s a true testament to the necessity of continuously investing in science to move us forward.

Gov. Pritzker: (10:14)
Government investments in science are important, and those investments have consistently paid enormous dividends as they are with these new vaccines. [We’re 00:10:26] on the precipice of the first vaccinations, just a year after this virus was first detected is a true testament to the quality of researchers, and epidemiologists, and infectious disease doctors that we have. They deserve our gratitude and our respect, and now it’s on all of us to keep wearing our masks, keep our distance, and find the patience to allow the vaccines to be distributed so that we can put this difficult chapter in the history books. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Ezike, who will discuss some of the logistics involved in delivering the first round of the vaccines. Doctor.

Dr. Ezike: (11:12)
Thank you governor and good afternoon everyone. Happy Friday. As the governor mentioned, I will delve into the mechanics of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution for the State of Illinois. As things have changed, we were initially told that Illinois would receive approximately 400,000 doses of vaccine for shipment, but as the governor has mentioned, that has been reduced to approximately 109,000, and we still know that we need to wait for final numbers as we get closer to the date. Regardless of how many doses we do receive IDPH will be tracking shipments, allocations, and the data to detect any disparities in administration. The initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccines will be received by IDPH directly from the CDC and stored in our strategic national stockpile. We have purchased 20 ultra cold freezers for the vaccines that will require this special housing. Allocation of these vaccines will be sent initially to the 50 counties, as governor Pritzker mentioned that have the highest death rate per capita. IDPH has already notified the hospitals, the 10 hospitals of the regional hospital coordination centers that will serve as the distribution site for the vaccine to the local health departments of those 50 counties. Our local health department partners will then work with the hospitals in their area to identify the high-risk and the critical healthcare workers for the initial vaccine administration.

Dr. Ezike: (12:50)
Also, there is a federal partnership with both CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to directly vaccinate residents of the long-term care facilities. In our state, all but five of the long-term care facilities have registered to participate in this process, and will continue to work to make sure we get those last five facilities registered as well. Once there are more doses of the vaccine from Moderna and maybe other vaccine candidates that are in the pipeline, we will continue to vaccinate people in the phase 1a and the subsequent phase 1b. After those individuals are vaccinated, there will be more hopefully vaccine available, and more healthcare providers in Illinois will be able to enter their vaccine orders in our registry system. And IDPH will be able to also place orders on the providers behalf. I-CARE is our Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange, and this is a web-based immunization record sharing application. The application allows both public and private healthcare providers to share immunization records…

Dr. Ezike: (14:03)
… public and private health care providers to share immunization records of Illinois residents with other physicians and public health officials statewide. IDPH staff will then submit orders to CDC. Depending on whether the ultra cold or the simply refrigerated vaccine is sent, IDPH or the providers themselves will directly receive those doses to then be administered. This process will continue until hopefully everyone in Illinois is vaccinated. I will put the caveat that, at this point, we know that this vaccine might be for 18 and over until we hear otherwise. There are still many moving parts to the plan, but as we have been … Hopefully you appreciate since the beginning of this pandemic, we’ll share information as we get it, fully transparent and be responsive to your questions and your inquiries to get you the information that you need. To date, IDPH reports 10,526 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 770,088 cases as a total for the state of Illinois.

Dr. Ezike: (15:09)
Unfortunately, over the last 24 hours, we received a report of another 148 lives lost for a total of 12,974 individuals lost to COVID. Overnight, 5,453 individuals were in the hospital with COVID-19, and of those, 1, 153 individuals were in the ICU and 703 patients were on ventilators. In the last 24 hours, more than 112,000 tests had been reported for a total of almost 11 million tests in the state of Illinois. Of course, each day that passes brings us closer to getting back to our normal. That’s kind of cliche. Of course, that’s the truth, but that day will come sooner as we continue to maintain our mitigation efforts, continue to wash up, back up, and mask up, of course. Then please, if you haven’t, sleeve up in order to receive your flu shot, which is available at your providers today. Thank you. Now, I will translate comments into Spanish.

Dr. Ezike: (19:10)
[Spanish 00:02: 21].

Dr. Ezike: (19:10)
Excuse me.

Dr. Ezike: (19:10)
[Spanish 00:05: 10].

Dr. Ezike: (19:59)
With that, I will turn it over to Governor Pritzker.

Gov. Pritzker: (21:31)
Thanks very much, Dr. Ezike, and happy to take questions from members of the media.

Speaker 1: (21:37)
Governor Pritker-

Gov. Pritzker: (21:37)

Speaker 1: (21:37)
Would you be willing to take get the vaccine shot here during one of your 2:30 daily briefings just to show-

Gov. Pritzker: (21:43)
Oh, sure.

Speaker 1: (21:43)
… [inaudible 00:21:44]?

Gov. Pritzker: (21:45)
But not ahead of anybody else who according to the ACEP guidelines should get their vaccine. But I’d be happy to demonstrate to people that I would take the vaccine as I think any public officials should, but they should do it in line with whatever their comorbidities or wherever they fit, if they’re a healthcare worker, in addition to being elected official, etc.

Speaker 1: (22:06)
Now are you making the vaccine mandatory for frontline workers?

Gov. Pritzker: (22:12)
No. We are-

Speaker 1: (22:14)
Are the hospitals [crosstalk 00:22:12]?

Gov. Pritzker: (22:14)
We are sending it to the hospital specifically for the purpose of them distributing it to their personnel. It is up to them to have their personnel line up and get the vaccine shot.

Speaker 2: (22:25)
Have there been trials at any … I mean, are there sort of doing some practices because of … I’ve heard that there sort of a time limit when you open the vial that you must administer it rather quickly.

Gov. Pritzker: (22:38)
I think what you’re really referring to, if I may, is when it gets to a rural community, for example … We’re talking about the ultra cold just to be clear. I think it’s the ultra cold storage requirement that is the thing that people are concerned about. As Dr. Ezike has talked about and I have too, there are days from the time that it comes out of ultra cold storage to the time that it has to be injected in somebody’s arm. Five days, as I understand. We want to make sure that the counties, as they’re picking up their allocations, have a plan for distributing the proper number. By the way, these regional health care centers that are holding on to the vaccine for them in ultra cold storage, which we’ve enhanced their capabilities at the state level to those hospitals, but we’ve allowed them to keep in … The local county governments, public health departments, to keep their vaccines in cold storage until they need them and want to distribute them. They don’t need to take them all and then have to worry about whether there’s going to be spoilage. They do only want to take out of the ultra cold freezers though what they will use.

Speaker 3: (23:50)
Why were those 10 hospitals chosen? I’m assuming geography, but also they have the storage.

Gov. Pritzker: (23:57)
They do have the storage, but also there’s a history of IDPH working with these major medical centers across the state. These are the regional hubs that IDPH has worked with historically. Is there anything you want to add to that?

Dr. Ezike: (24:08)
[inaudible 00:24:08].

Gov. Pritzker: (24:09)
I mean, that is how this has been broken out for many years in the state. It does cover the territory if you look at the map as we’ve put it out.

Speaker 3: (24:18)
How critical is the second dose? How are the providers and the state going to keep on top of people getting that second dose in a timely fashion?

Gov. Pritzker: (24:26)
Well, the providers certainly have some responsibility here as they’re injecting people to make sure that they know what the next appointment is for them to come back and then it’s up to individuals too. You can’t force somebody to show up, but I think everybody will want to. There’s going to be a reminder system I’m sure by providers to their patients as they’re administering the first dose. You have to have the second dose from the same provider that you got the first … Sorry, from the same manufacturer as you did the first dose. If you’ve got the Pfizer vaccine on dose one, you want to get the Pfizer vaccine on dose two.

Speaker 4: (25:03)
Can you give us any further information on the equity on the Black and Brown communities? You’ve obviously talked about those 50 counties that have the highest death rate. What is the other component of that look like?

Gov. Pritzker: (25:16)
That’s something that the ACEP, which consists of … In addition to just regular old, I don’t know if you can say regular old when you say epidemiologists and experts. But in addition to them, there are bioethicists who were involved in ACEP. We’re looking for their guidance about that. We also have a pretty good idea in the city of Chicago and across the state of Illinois where the communities are where if you want to address the inequities for Black and Brown communities where those locations might be. Then the Doctor and IDPH are looking at the possibility of allowing local health departments to use mobile facilities for the distribution of vaccine. But again, we’re looking for the plans from the 96 of the 97 local public health departments, the 97th being Chicago and they have a separate allocation. Those plans, nearly all of them have been submitted to IDPH already. We’re down to about eight local health departments that haven’t yet submitted their plans. Then they will be tasked with picking up the vaccine and distributing it within their counties. They know their counties better than anybody else.

Speaker 4: (26:35)
How do you describe as the historic nature of this venture? Has the state ever had to undertake anything of this magnitude before logistically?

Gov. Pritzker: (26:44)
I’m not sure I know. I’ve been in office for two years. I can’t tell you the entire history of the state of Illinois and its distribution of … I can just say I don’t think at any time, even during the last pandemic, there was anything quite like this. There wasn’t a vaccine that was being distributed like this and in such quick fashion too. This is unprecedented. I mean, like everything else in 2020, this is unprecedented. I’m very proud. I’m very proud of this country, of the researchers and doctors and epidemiologists and all the work that they’ve done. I’ve stood up here how many times? 130 times at press conferences during this year. I’ve talked sometimes about my prayers, our prayers collectively for the researchers, because all of us know that we’re not going to get past this without either an extraordinarily effective treatment, which we haven’t yet seen. We’ve seen some good ones, but not extraordinarily effective. Or vaccines. I think the prayer that we could have vaccines in relatively short order seems to have been answered. I really credit the researchers and the people who were on the front lines, the people who are experimenting doing the science and have done it for a decade up to now that-

Gov. Pritzker: (28:03)
… the science and have done it for a decade up to now that has allowed this to be such a quick turnaround time for a vaccine.

Reporters: (28:08)
[crosstalk 00:28:08] If more Illinoisans get the vaccine, is that a quicker way to get back to tier two mitigations?

Gov. Pritzker: (28:11)

Reporters: (28:11)
And into that lovely phase five we’ve all been dreaming of?

Gov. Pritzker: (28:15)

Reporters: (28:16)
Dr. Ezike, any advice for pregnant women, whether or not, especially pregnant healthcare women, should they take the vaccines?

Dr. Ezike: (28:26)
No, there are still questions that are unanswered and that I am not the one to make the final call. We’re waiting for data. That is a specific group that we need to have information on in terms of pregnancy. We have to see if the FDA says that there were enough pregnant women. Usually pregnant women are not included in these kinds of trials. So if it turns out incidentally that somebody who got the vaccine was pregnant and they found out subsequently after they were enrolled, we might have data, but it may not be enough people of that category with which to make with which to make a decision. And so for that, the guidelines that may come out might say that they would be excluded. So again, much to be learned.

Dr. Ezike: (29:07)
We know that for instance, what do you do with people who’ve had COVID, does that mean they don’t need the vaccine? So I think we’ve heard that if you’re within three months of having the infection, we think you don’t need the vaccine, but potentially if it’s been more than three months, you might still, and they might say it’s three to six months because we have information in the literature that three months you’re protected, maybe it’s up to six months, so again, some answers that we’re still waiting from both the FDA and the CDC to give us additional guidelines.

Reporters: (29:34)
Dr. Ezike, a number of our listeners called this morning. They want to know if there’re stronger doses for certain age groups, because when you get the flu shots, if you’re a senior citizen, they give you a different dose that’s more potent. Is that… This apply to COVID?

Dr. Ezike: (29:47)
No, that’s a great question. So we don’t have that at this time. There’s only one dose. And initially everyone is getting those same… Dose one and dose to look exactly equivalent. I know some people were asking if it’s a different dose and then a higher dose, they’re both equivalent doses. And so that is what we have, and we don’t have a different formulation that’s for any specialized population at this point. Again, there might be further updates in vaccines that will be tested again to determine if there’s a different need, because we do know that seniors do have, maybe over age 75, we know that they have a harder time making those antibodies. So that’s the rationale behind the flu shots, which you have a hyper flu shot, if you will, to help them boost, to create that immune response.

Reporters: (30:35)
Do you know how long it’s going to take, 1A to get, before we move onto 1B, the healthcare workers, the long-term residents, how long that’s going to take?

Dr. Ezike: (30:42)
Yeah. So the 1A alone, again, we want to try to get that done obviously as soon as possible, it’s going to be probably limited by the vaccine allocation that we get. And it depends if that second vaccine makes it through the FDA approval, because then that gives us more vaccine to be working with. And then, of course, it depends on the willingness of the people who are in the 1A to get it. But in terms of getting it to everyone who wants it, I’m hoping we can get through that within four weeks, a month or so, and then get to 1B, which is a much larger group, I think. And it’s going to take a considerable amount of time.

Gov. Pritzker: (31:25)
It will take many months I might add, when you get beyond 1A and I wouldn’t even say for me anyway, when I read the data and I would defer to the doctor, but I will say that I wouldn’t put a time limit on it, because it’s very hard to tell. We don’t know when Moderna is going to be approved. We don’t know when Pfizer is going to be approved. We know what the dates are for the meetings. And we hope December 10th is the date for Pfizer. We hope that a week later, or 10 days later, Moderna might be approved. And if, if, if, then you get a certain number of the manufactured vaccines that they’ve already manufactured in hope that it will be approved. So I’m sorry. So the amounts of vaccine that are available are really dependent on a lot of things that are completely out of our control.

Reporters: (32:17)
Doesn’t it help that the vaccine is being stored in Kenosha? Some of it already?

Gov. Pritzker: (32:18)
Yes. I mean, of course, although it’s not like we don’t have mass transit and airports and airplanes that can deliver things relatively quickly. But yes, of course, knowing that there’s a warehouse near Kenosha, as I understand that might be holding Pfizer vaccine is a great, great news for all of us.

Reporters: (32:40)
Can I ask you about cannabis sales? The revenue is booming. Is this roughly what you expected?

Gov. Pritzker: (32:46)
I don’t know that we knew exactly what to expect. We’ve made projections early on. It appears to me that this exceeds many of the projections that were made early on, but the industry is doing well. There’s much more that needs to be done to build out the industry, as you know, and we’re going to continue to make sure that that happens.

Reporters: (33:09)
Part two, the end of that question. The industry says the state is leaving a lot of money on the table-

Gov. Pritzker: (33:14)
I’ve heard that.

Reporters: (33:16)
… because of refusal to allow the companies to move medical dispensaries to sell. Why not allow this? And are you open to discussions?

Gov. Pritzker: (33:23)
Always open to discussion, but understand that there was a bill back in may that would have allowed that. The General Assembly did not take that bill up. The bill also would have clarified some of the rules around social equity licenses. I wanted to speed up making sure that the social equity licenses get out there. And I have worked with the Black Caucus to make sure that that we’re doing that as expeditiously as possible, but those things would go together, the expansion of the medical provider’s ability to have a second location. I know everybody would say, well, were you leaving money on the table. Why not give out all the licenses? Well, as you know, there are reasons why the General Assembly wrote a bill that has ratable amounts over the course of the next several years as they roll out the industry. I think they’ve done it well, I might add.

Reporters: (34:14)
Yeah. One from Mark Maxwell. He’s asked me to ask you. Your office says that USDA offered an infection control expert to the LaSalle Veterans Home on November 9th. Why did she only now just arrive?

Dr. Ezike: (34:26)
It was November 19th, not 9, 19.

Reporters: (34:28)
Either way. Why did she not arrive on site on November 30th? What took so long to implement that help?

Gov. Pritzker: (34:35)
I’m sorry, you’re talking about DPH? Can you just explain?

Reporters: (34:35)
It says USDA offered an infection control-

Gov. Pritzker: (34:42)
USDA. So yeah. Let me respond to that, because I know that Congressman Kinzinger is out there pushing that story. Yeah, honestly, I’m unclear. I don’t think anybody’s clear about what the Congressman is referring to because the DVA and the US Veterans Administration have been in regular communication from the very beginning here, starting when there was an outbreak. And there’s been a good working relationship between those two organizations from the outset., The USDA offered the state help with PPE and infection control. We took them up on it, on both of those offers. And at the end of the month, they offered a consultant to come in and review protocols. They ended up last month, I might add, to review protocols at not just the LaSalle Home, but all of our homes. And we took them up on that as well, in fact more so we asked them for assistance in all of our homes and they’ve been providing it.

Gov. Pritzker: (35:43)
So, I would say it is funny to me that the Congressman is attacking on this point when he voted against funding for our state veterans homes. And that would have been very helpful to us in keeping them safe.

Reporters: (36:02)
Great. We got to get on a line. You have one more Marianne.

Reporters: (36:02)
All right. Did the on-site infection control expert had COVID and that’s why she was late, or he, or she was late and [inaudible 00:36:09]?

Gov. Pritzker: (36:08)
I haven’t heard anything like that, no.

Reporters: (36:12)
John O’Connor at the AP respectfully I understand who investigates price gouging. My question was, where are the referrals to the AG you promised? How can the AG’s staff investigate price gouging if the buyer doesn’t alert them to it? Who on your staff is lead on this?

Gov. Pritzker: (36:28)
Well, I want to just maybe we need to level John, because I know you asked this question a little bit yesterday. We did the work on the front end. We had offers coming in to sell different kinds of PPE, particularly masks on the front end. And there were certainly high prices. Some of those prices that were being offered to us were higher than others, but all of them, or most them rather were in line with what other States were being offered as well. So when we saw $5, $6, $7 N95 mask, you also heard Governor Cuomo talking about the fact that that’s what it was costing New York, and that’s what it was costing Ohio. And that’s what it was costing other States. And that’s one of the consequences of having no national strategy and having not invoked the Defense Production Act, is that the market price, which is not defined as a gouging price. A market price is whatever the market will bear.

Gov. Pritzker: (37:29)
The market price went up. That was shocking to everybody because when you’re paying $5 for something that a year earlier would have cost you, or even months earlier, would have cost only maybe 95 cents, just surprising to everybody. Where there was price gouging. And we saw an instance of this where there was an offer to us at a ridiculously high price at a moment when we needed N95 masks. And there was fraud involved in that situation. And we did refer that situation, not just to the AG and to the ISP, but also to the federal government. Indeed the federal government was helping us to monitor for those kinds of fraudulent situations. So there was a lot going on in that market and wherever we saw anything, if we saw something that we could identify as price gouging, we referred it. You heard me talk about it here, because I wanted to make sure that anybody that was out there that was thinking about price gouging the State of Illinois, would know that we would send it to the authorities.

Reporters: (38:35)
There are 200,000 fraudulent IDES unemployment claims. This is from Gretchen, that had been filed. Why is this happening when there is a massive backup? Would you consider holding a special session to discuss IDES backups and the cause of more than 200,000 fraudulent unemployment claims?

Gov. Pritzker: (38:53)
So I can tell you that there are massive fraudulent unemployment claims, because there are identities that have been stolen in every state and applications made on behalf of those people. I know people that that’s happened to. And so that’s something that whenever a crook sees an opportunity, they’re going to come forward. Some of these folks are people who have hacked into, let’s say Experian or a number of retailers, systems, stolen millions of identities. And then they hold on to them for some long period of time, not using them so that they can spring them at the right moment. So that’s one of the causes of the fraud. And as to hearings about IDES, we’ve been very transparent, we’ve been at hearings. We’ve had our IDES director at hearings to respond to the General Assembly, working groups of the General Assembly.

Gov. Pritzker: (39:59)
There’s a commission as you know that oversees the work in response to the pandemic. And so we’ve responded to that by sending our IDES folks. But I also want to point out that Illinois is not unusual in this regard, that literally nearly every state has had not only massive amounts of fraud, but huge delays that have occurred as a result of the massive influx of applications for unemployment. You can see there are plenty of articles about those, many other States, indeed, I think it’s 47 States that have reported massive delays by weeks. Illinois is maybe in the middle of the pack in terms of its responsiveness to dealing with this. And we’re trying very hard to overcome backlogs that exist, but we’re constantly overcoming that backlog just to… So you know, there are callback systems and other systems that have been put in place over the course of the last six months that are really helping us to make sure that people get their unemployment on time.`

Reporters: (41:10)
Steve Doll, WTAX. You recently talked about Midwest governors and now the governor of Ohio is facing possible impeachment because of orders similar to yours. How close are you to being impeached?

Gov. Pritzker: (41:23)
Is that a real question? I don’t know how to answer that. Look, I have a strong approval rating in the state. I think I’ve done a good job. I know that there are people who run around every day trying to file lawsuits, the snake oil salesman that we’ve talked about before. And trying to gin up opposition to our effort to fight COVID-19. And all I can say is that we’re doing the right thing. The courts have affirmed the things that we’re doing, that the best experts in the country are affirming the kinds of mitigations that we’ve put in place. So-

Gov. Pritzker: (42:03)
… of mitigations that we’ve put in place. So I don’t know what to say. I have talked to the governor of Ohio and the other governors in the Midwest, and we have shared best ideas with one another. I have to say that we may be on the opposite sides of the aisle, Governor DeWine, but he has had good ideas, implemented them. I think he’s been one of the leaders. So I’m sure there are people who don’t like him and they’re trying to remove him from office, mostly in his own party.

Jordan: (42:32)
Jordan Elder, WICS. Region three has the lowest percentage of available ICU beds across the state right now, and only 20 ICU beds are available as of yesterday. They covered 18 counties in that region. Will the state get involved if beds run out, especially with a post-Thanksgiving surge possibly on the way?

Gov. Pritzker: (42:49)
In many ways we already are involved. That is to say with every hospital, we are being responsive to them. They call us for help when they need it, of any sort. We’re going to continue to monitor those ICU beds. Thank goodness, if you look at the numbers, and I look at them every day, the ICU numbers are coming down mildly across the state. The hospital beds overall have come down about 15% off of the peak so far. I’m not saying we should celebrate anything, because we still have to get through this period that people have talked about as a surge upon a surge. But I’m always hopeful when I see the numbers going the right direction.

Jordan: (43:33)
Marni Pike and the Daily Herald. What if significant numbers refuse to get the vaccines? Will that endanger the rest of the population?

Gov. Pritzker: (43:41)
I’d rather defer to the doctor about this because it’s a question about herd immunity, I think. Yeah. Okay, sorry.

Dr. Ezike: (43:51)
I think I spoke about this. Obviously it’s a collective approach. All of the efforts that have been needed to control this pandemic have been a collective response that’s been needed. We know that if you wear a mask, that’s great. But if two people interacting wear a mask, that’s much better. If everyone is wearing a mask, that’s obviously much better. There’s a similar concept with the vaccination. If I’m in a group of 20 and 10 people have not been vaccinated, if I’m one of them, then if I’m infected, I have the ability to infect those other nine people that similarly are not vaccinated. But if 19 other people in my 20 person circle, of course we’re not supposed to be in groups of 20, then none of those people are susceptible. And so even if I do have the infection, I can’t transmit it to anyone.

Dr. Ezike: (44:45)
So every single person that gets vaccinated helps us get closer to a point where our community is safer. Every single one helps. The more we get, the better we are, the less virus can move around because it’s struggling to find anybody to infect. And so that’s the concept. We think, we’re not sure about this percentage in terms of how many you need, we’ve heard 80%, we’ve heard 70%. We won’t actually even know until we see the transmission really subside to say that, “Oh, you needed this percent. Oh, you need that percent.” So it’s not a number that we can say definitively now. We just want to get as many people vaccinated. And when we get there, we’ll obviously know as the transmission spread decreases and decreases.

Jordan: (45:30)
Kelly Bauer at Block Club for Governor Pritzker. There’s a surge of new cases but the jail population has remained higher than it was in the spring. What are we doing to protect incarcerated and detained people? Why isn’t there a more visible push for release?

Gov. Pritzker: (45:44)
Just so I understand that, I think that when you say the jail population, I don’t know if she’s including the prison population in that. I think that is not the case, I might add. The prison population is down. The jail population actually has come down significantly over the last couple of months as we have transferred more inmates, potential inmates from jail to prison, and so that population has come down over the last couple of months. So I think she’s referring to something before March as compared to today. Remember, don’t forget that the court systems have been, roughly speaking, shut down, at least for quite a number of months. So there were people who no doubt were awaiting their court appearances who unfortunately were in jail during that time, and so I feel badly about that but I think overall the population has come down, and that’s helped to manage COVID-19 better.

Jordan: (46:45)
Samantha Smylie’s asking well when the state plans to prioritize teachers on the list. Okay,

Gov. Pritzker: (46:53)
Well gain, the ACEP Committee is meeting and producing recommendations for everybody. Certainly after the phase 1A and potentially after phase 1B we’ll start to see other very essential populations like teachers that’ll be addressed.

Jordan: (47:14)
Can Dr. Ezike… This is from Jim Leach at WMAY. Can Dr. Ezike address the side effects of a vaccine? Will it cause symptoms that can sideline people, and how will that impact already overworked medical staffs?

Dr. Ezike: (47:25)
Yeah. That is a really important question. And as the FDA releases the data and the information that will allow us to see the percentages of people that report a significant reaction… I think I’ve heard 10% to 15% of people have a significant reaction that can last maybe even up to nearly 24 hours. So we need that information, obviously, so that as we are moving forward, especially with both our longterm care population and with our healthcare workers, that we plan that and understand that so that we don’t have a situation where a bunch of people that we need to be in the hospital all need to take a day off subsequent to that vaccine. So again, that is information that we will be getting from the FDA hopefully next week with that December 10th meeting. And so that is important information that we need to get out so that there can be appropriate planning to make sure that we protect the healthcare force so that we don’t have too many people out at the same time.

Jordan: (48:29)
Dan Petrella at the Tribune: State data shows 480 deaths in the past week tied to longterm care facilities. That’s the highest weekly death total of the pandemic and nearly double from the week before. What more can be done to protect this vulnerable population before vaccination?

Gov. Pritzker: (48:46)
Yeah. This is frankly the same challenge that exists in all the other populations, and even more so when we are at the highest levels of the pandemic. The surge has been much higher than even the last surge was back in the spring. There is a great deal that has been done. We’ve shut down… For example, you remember that although longterm care facilities had been completely shut down to outside visitors, that we opened it up for outside visiting for a period of time, and now we no longer have that open for people to have outside visit… Sorry, outdoors is what I meant by outside, by outside visitors. And so that’s one thing that’s been done. Certainly infection control is better overall now than it was at the very beginning, because there’s a greater understanding of what needs to be done.

Gov. Pritzker: (49:49)
And so those are the kinds of things that we do to try to protect people in longterm care facilities. Also, I’d remind you that we weren’t able, back in the spring, to test everybody or test the staff on a regular basis, or the residents. Actually now we’re testing staff once a week and we’re providing the supplies for all the longterm care facilities to do it themselves. And wherever there’s an outbreak, we’re testing everybody in the facility, all residents at that time to see if there’s an outbreak among the residents and whether there needs to be segregation of people who have COVID in those-

Jordan: (50:26)
John at the Tribune is asking what you’re going to do to prevent wealthy and connected people from getting ahead of other people in line.

Gov. Pritzker: (50:34)
Well, the first thing we’ve done is that we’ve set parameters. We are setting parameters, ACEP is helping with that, for who should get the vaccine. And then we’re requiring all of the 96 local public health departments to follow those parameters with a plan that gets submitted to IDPH and then approved. And then they’re responsible for distributing the vaccine to the locations, to the providers that will administer it to the communities that are in each phase as it’s laid out. So that’s the most important thing. And I would add on top of that, that we have to move through this first phase of the vaccine distribution to make sure that we’re covering the healthcare workers and the longterm care facility workers and residents certainly before we would ever get to any broader population. So we’re prioritizing.

Jordan: (51:39)
All right. Greg Hinz at Crain’s will be our last one. Is Chicago not only getting its distribution of vaccine doses directly from the feds but also a share of the state’s overall 109? Probably just should explain the breakdown.

Gov. Pritzker: (51:52)
Sure. Chicago has about 21% of the population of the state in the city of Chicago, and so the federal government is sending about 21% of the 109,000 that come to the state of Illinois. They receive that directly. It’s about 23,000. And the rest of the state and the state SNS gets the other 86,000 of those.

Jordan: (52:16)
Okay. Thank you.

Gov. Pritzker: (52:17)
Thank you.

Jordan: (52:18)
Thank you all.

Speaker 6: (52:20)
Hey Jordan, do you have the Titan Hospital location?

Jordan: (52:23)
Yeah. I’m going to send to you guys. I have the PowerPoint and it had it on there. I just don’t could see it. So I’ll send it as soon as I get back to my desk.

Speaker 5: (52:34)
Hey Sloan, don’t lock anybody out-

Sloan: (52:37)
Funny. Actually, there’s tape there and I already told them not to lock me out today. I was like, “I have to keep up with my reputation, so I can’t be locked out of here.”

Speaker 7: (52:47)
[crosstalk 00:52:47]… because seven’s going to stay here.

Speaker 5: (52:48)
Sure, sure, sure.

Speaker 7: (52:49)
And we have them ready. It shouldn’t be too bad.

Speaker 6: (52:52)
I downloaded your graphics, too.

Sloan: (52:53)
Oh, you didn’t?

Speaker 5: (52:54)
No, we did not…

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