Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Pritzker: Feds doubling staff at O’Hare; Closing all bars and restaurants beginning Monday; Asked for end to overnight food delivery ban; 29 new cases; Will not delay election “unclear when we might be able to hold another one”
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Pritzker: Feds doubling staff at O’Hare; Closing all bars and restaurants beginning Monday; Asked for end to overnight food delivery ban; 29 new cases; Will not delay election “unclear when we might be able to hold another one”

Sunday, Mar 15, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Comments are now open on this post.]

* During his press conference today (click here), Gov. JB Pritzker began by talking about the situation at O’Hare…

Customs and Border Patrol and the TSA agents are under federal jurisdiction, meaning times of heightened security and monitoring require federal leadership. Instead of being alerted by federal Customs and Border Patrol, my administration learned through Twitter about the unacceptable and frankly dangerous situation at O’Hare International Airport, one of the nation’s and the world’s busiest airports, together with Mayor Lightfoot. Senator Durbin and others. We worked through the night to demand immediate action from the White House, and as a result this morning. I received a call from Vice President Pence and another from Secretary of Homeland Security, acknowledging that mistakes were made and informing me that Customs and Border Patrol would be doubling staff at O’Hare Airport today. I continue to monitor the situation closely.

I don’t usually get heated on Twitter. And I always try to work through official channels. When possible, but when I saw hundreds of people crammed together for many hours at O’Hare in exactly the conditions that I have been warning about for days. I was furious. … If getting mad on Twitter is what it takes to get federal officials to act. Then I am absolutely going to do that.

Remember that I’m using Otter for transcription, so typos are inevitable.

* More…

As I’ve said there are no easy decisions left to make as we address this unprecedented crisis every choice that we face every choice now is hard, and it comes with real consequences for our residents. But as your governor, I cannot let the gravity of these choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe.

With that said, I am ordering all bars and restaurants in the state of Illinois to close to the public, as of the close of business Monday Night March 16 through March 30.

* More…

We are working with restaurant owners and food delivery services across the state to see if restaurants can safely keep their kitchens open. So the restaurants can continue food delivery to people at their homes. Additionally, we are allowing drive thru and curbside pickup for restaurants to serve the public over this period, we are working with restaurant owners in this effort. Sam Toya from the restaurant association is here with us today, and has been an incredible help to my administration and troubleshooting this difficult issue.

My staff is working around the clock to help resolve all of the logistical concerns around an action this unprecedented. And we will have more details in the days ahead.

There’s another hard step to take. I know how difficult this will be on small businesses around the state. This is another hard step. But we must do everything that we can to safeguard the health and safety of the citizens of the state of Illinois. And that requires urgent action.

I tried earlier this week to appeal to everyone’s good judgment to stay home to avoid bars, not to congregate in crowds. It’s unfortunate that many people didn’t take that seriously. The time for persuasion and public appeals is over the time for action is here. This is not a joke. No one is immune to this, and you have an obligation to act in the best interests of all the people of this state.

* State employees…

As I announced last week starting tomorrow, the James R Thompson center will be closed to all people who do not have business with the state. My team of deputy governors is working with each of our agencies to continue to provide critical services while following IDPH guidance on risk reduction. That includes directing some employees to continue to come to the office, moving some to a work from home capacity and making other needed adjustments to work schedules. These measures will roll out over the coming days and state workers should expect communications from their agency leaders shortly. All employees will continue to be paid during this time period,

* Food and supplies…

Next, I want to take a moment to talk about something that I know is weighing on everyone’s mind food access for our schoolchildren our most vulnerable populations and all of our residents. I know the grocery stores faced a major surge of shoppers. In the last few days and pictures of barren shelves are quick to circulate on social media. I want people to know that Illinois, food supply chain is among the nation’s strongest and steadiest, and I’m committed to keeping it that way, as this situation evolves.

Already we conferred with grocers of all sizes throughout the state, and ask for their advice on what would make it easier for them to get products through their stores and to our residents, based on that feedback my staff and I have connected with initial cities throughout Illinois, including the city of Chicago, asking that they end their prohibitions on overnight grocery deliveries. We’ve also reached out to the federal level asking them to change regulations to free up the flow of merchandise from warehouses to stores, and we’re working with our own state police to do the same, wherever we can.

More on that topic…

My team at the Department of Agriculture is working around the clock to see how our rural farming communities are doing, how they’re faring during this time, and across the board the answer has been that their supply remains good. We also connected with major national and global food processors including Archer Daniels Midland based in Chicago to check in on their supply chain, and they are doing well, with no hiccups. We need the people of Illinois to help us here to please do not hoard food, buy what you need, but please be reasonable. Think of your friends and your neighbors, there is enough food to go around, but we need people to not be selfish.

* Schools…

As for school provided meals, as I mentioned, our State Board of Education has received the necessary waivers to continue to distribute two meals a day to children who qualified for free and reduced lunch statewide starting Tuesday is me has been working day and night to set up plans with districts across the state and local districts will contact students, parents and guardians directly with more information about what distribution looks like in their communities here in Chicago all school buildings will be available for grab and go pick up for breakfast and lunches to any child under 18 between the hours of 9am and 1pm. You don’t have to go to your own school. And you don’t have to be qualified for free and reduced lunch CPS is giving food to any child who needs it. No questions asked. And I want to just call for a moment for all of you to recognize the hard work that the mayor has put in with her staff and with CPS to make sure that this has happened for the children of the city of Chicago. That work is going on all across the state we have 102 counties, cities all over the entire state of Illinois, that are working this out, locally, and I’m very grateful for their cooperation, and their hard work. Additionally, I reached out to the largest food manufacturers in the state, including Kraft Heinz conagra, and PepsiCo and asked that they donate specific critical items to food banks statewide to help provide a third meal to children who get most of their meals during a regular school day. Those manufacturers conveyed a resounding willingness to help.

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health today announced 29 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Illinois. Five additional counties are now reporting cases – Champaign, Clinton, Sangamon, Whiteside, and Winnebago counties. Other locations with cases include Chicago and Cook, Cumberland, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, St. Clair, and Woodford counties.

“We are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases increase exponentially and in more locations across Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “At this point, it is best to assume that the coronavirus is circulating in your community and you should take the same precautions when interacting with other people that you would when interacting with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This may seem like an extreme step, but this is how we reduce the number of new cases and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.”

Currently, IDPH is reporting 93 cases in 13 counties in Illinois. Cases have occurred in all age ranges and the number of cases that do not have a clear connection to travel or a known COVID-19 case is increasing.

* Election…

Finally, I want to address concerns about the election on Tuesday. Folks, right now, every decision that I make is between a bad choice and a less bad choice.

The only thing that I know is that I can’t do. I can’t fail to make a decision at all. That is what I know, I cannot fail to make any decision.

If we delayed the election, it is unclear when we might be able to hold another one.

Many thousands of people have already voted through the mail or have early voted. Thankfully Illinois has made the ballot very accessible to our residents. In fact, we have already set a record for the number of mailing applications in Chicago that have been received. We’re working with our local county clerk’s all across the state and boards of elections, to make sure that in person voting on Tuesday is conducted safely. But remember, today, tomorrow and Tuesday, all are election days.

Democracy must continue. We have to elect leaders, even in less than ideal circumstances. None of these decisions, I come to lightly, and I work hard to consider all the benefits and consequences of each decision.

* It’s roughly doubling every two days…

* Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged that the city would enforce the closing of restaurants and bars…

(W)e will enforce this at the city level. And let me specifically address St Patrick’s Day. Now I am very well aware of the story traditions of the city. On that day I came to this great city for the first time on St Patrick’s Day, as a college freshman. So I get it. But this year, this time is different. It must be different to save lives. I do not want to see hordes of people out in the streets, the bars will be shut. So please stay home and be safe. I asked everyone to continue practicing common sense measures that have proven to limit exposure to this virus. Continue to wash your hands, routinely practice social distancing stay home. If you are sick, or if you don’t need to be out and about, not just for your own well being, but for the well being of every single person you interact with

* Gov. Pritzker was asked why the vote by mail deadline wasn’t extended…

So, number one, we, as you know, Thursday was the last day that you could turn in an application for a mail ballot. If we had extended that deadline it wouldn’t have guaranteed to people that their ballot would have actually been returned or postmarked as of Tuesday. And that’s when it has to be postmarked by law. So what we did instead was allow people to pick up those mail ballots, those applications and the actual mail ballots themselves and mail them back in over the weekend so that they would be postmarked by Tuesday. We also implored all of the county clerks across the state. The state board of elections the city board of elections to extend the hours of early voting, so that people who might not have been able to get an ballot by mail will be able to show up in person during a day when maybe they didn’t want to show up on Tuesday, they’d like to do it early when there may be a smaller number of people at the polling place.

* Mayor Lightfoot…

We’ve also done a call for volunteers [for election day workers]… We’ve got hundreds of additional people who have responded there in the course of going through online training, and so we believe that we will have a sufficient number of election judges to staff the polling places on election day.

* Pritzker on blood donations…

Next I want to address blood donations across the state. We’ve seen an outpouring of individuals fiercely interested in supporting their neighbors as this situation evolves. I want to encourage individuals who are healthy, feeling well and are eligible to give blood or platelets to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible with the American Red Cross. A blood shortage could impact patients who need surgery, victims of car accidents and other emergencies, or patients suffering from cancer. One of the most important things that you can do to ensure that we don’t have another healthcare crisis on top of the coronavirus is to give blood. The Red Cross has procedures in place to enforce social distancing guidelines and keep donors safe as they accept blood donations. They need our help, right now.

Press conference has ended. You’ll find archived video and audio by clicking here.


1 Comment
  1. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Monday, Mar 16, 20 @ 9:06 am:

    Applied for vote-by-mail ballot on Thursday. They didn’t mail it until Sunday. Sunday? It took them 4 days to mail it? Really?
    We don’t get our mail until after 4 or 5 pm. so chances of getting it on time are slim and none.
    My husband says if he doesn’t get his ballot in time, he’s not voting.
    Man (exclamation point) And it took me so many years to turn him into a voter (exclamation point.)

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