* Gov. Pritzker announced the death of an infant from COVID-19…
I’ve learned through personal experience that grief is a bridge. It gives us permission to experience the sadness that we need to feel. In order to move forward. It helps us empathize with the people in our community that are hurting. That helps us to lift them up.
And I’m here to tell you, maybe the most important thing that I know is that this will pass. We will carry our lost family members and friends with us forever. And someday their memories will not bring grief. But the grace we need so that we can live on, and love again
Today marks one week that are since our stay at home order was put in place.
We’re increasing testing capacity, every day. We’re stopping at nothing to obtain supplies and equipment that we need for our hospitals and our medical workers, and I’ll continue to do everything necessary to bend to this curve and to keep Illinois safe and healthy. Based on science, data, and the guidance of health experts, our approach to fighting this virus is two pronged: suppress the spread and increase hospital capacity to meet the need. A critical component of our increasing our capacity is identifying and building out additional facilities across the state to support our existing hospitals and health care systems.
IDPH, IEMA, the Illinois National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers have been hard at work collaborating with our local officials on where we’re seeing the largest concentration of potential additional need. In partnership with the City of Chicago and the US Army Corps of Engineers, we’re planning to use the city’s McCormick Place Convention Center as Illinois’ first field hospital. I’ll provide more details on this effort for the public in the coming days, but the baseline is that we’re not waiting for the worst, we’re preparing ourselves for the worst.
As always, please pardon all typos.
* Thanks McDonald’s…
And because we’re receiving their donation this afternoon, I want to specifically recognize McDonald’s Corporation, headquartered here in Chicago, for today giving us an additional 400,095 masks to protect our essential workers in the fight against COVID 19.
We’ve put in every waiver that we can with the federal government to expand health care availability during this period. Number one, we’ve worked to ensure that no one will lose Medicaid as we work to stop COVID 19. We’re asking to temporarily suspend the annual renewal process that Medicaid recipients normally go through. Number two, we’ve worked to fast track Medicaid enrollment through the elimination of time consuming review procedures, as well as the suspension of numerous co-payments, spend downs and asset verifications, making it easier than ever for new applicants to get assistance. Three we’ve worked to guarantee covered costs for kovat 19 treatment to all of our uninsured residents, regardless of income. And four, we’ve worked to have all our insured residents covered for any out of pocket expenses relating to COVID 19 treatment costs. We’ve already received waivers allowing us to suspend prior authorizations, meaning doctors and providers don’t have to wait for approval before they can offer Medicaid care and streamlining our enrollment system on the provider side. Finally we’re exploring how to allow any medical provider in Illinois to bill Medicaid. We’re also awaiting approval of a waiver to further expand home delivered meals to help people stay at home and still get the nutrition that they need.
* Grocery stores…
Since my previous announcement about grocery stores, offering dedicated hours to older and more vulnerable shoppers, we’ve continued to work with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to make shopping a safer experience.
That continued reassessment has resulted in a new best practice that grocery stores will be rolling out in the coming days. In fact several new procedures.
These include signage at the entrance and throughout the store alerting customers that they must follow the six foot separation rule, to continuous announcements of social distancing rules throughout the store on their PA systems, setting up floor markers to socially distance at checkout lines, encouraging cashless purchases for speed at checkout, dedicating staff to regularly walking the floor to help customers follow the social distancing rules, placing shield guards in front of the cashier or the bagger that may not be six feet away from the customer, temporarily prohibiting reusable bags, encouraging the use of online ordering and curbside pickup and encouraging the use of self checkout lanes to reduce the number of interactions our grocery store employees have to make with customers.
* On to questions for the governor. President Trump has called for a quarantine of NYC. Are you concerned this will happen here?…
It’s unclear what the President, I’m not sure that he actually completed the call for it. He suggested that he may call for it. Look, I have to say that, New York, New Jersey, that entire area, you know, several of us lead in our stay at home orders relatively early. Indeed, I think we were among the very first states. And so I’m not sure what the President has in mind in terms of quarantining.
But if we here in Illinois do what people should be doing, following the rules according to the stay at home order, then you know we will be able to bend the curve here. But I think we’re all deeply concerned about what’s happening in New York and clearly it’s happening in New Jersey. There are hotspots around the nation and, you know, Chicago is now being referred to by some as a hotspot. So we’re all watching what’s happening and how the President and the federal government are reacting to them because at some point, we have to we’re going to be reaching a peak and we will want to know what can we expect from the federal government, because, frankly, so far we haven’t received enough support for what we think, you know, we’re going to reach a height of ICU admissions and hospitalizations.
* Concerned about first responders getting the virus?…
I’m deeply concerned about first responders, police, fire, healthcare workers, obviously, and we have provided for police departments fire departments and first responders the kind of PPE that they need in the near term. And as we acquire more PPE we’ll make sure that they have the stores that are necessary for the days going forward. It’s very important for us to, to make sure that those very essential workers, those first responders are kept safe. And as you saw we opened up a special testing facility just for our first responders and our healthcare workers to make sure that they get priority in this effort and they have the ability to get that test as soon as they are deemed by their doctor appropriate to get the test.
* From what you have learned about COVID 19, do people get it and then recover do they become immune or can you become reinfected by the virus…
IDPH Director: I’ve been scouring all the articles from around the world in terms of trying to amass all the knowledge about this virus. This virus seems to be a stable virus and that it doesn’t seem to mutate very significantly, so if you get this virus we think that you develop antibodies within less than a week and we think that that will give you immunity.
* Governor you obviously have teenage children, how do you as a father talk to them about what’s happening with COVID 19, and what advice do you have for parents and explaining what’s going on with the pandemic to their children and especially young children…
Well, I certainly have admonished my children to follow the rules, and they have you know, it’s not easy. You know the kids. And I think many kids are used to using the internet to communicate with one another so that’s, I think, a benefit to them that maybe we didn’t have as kids. But, in talking to them. I’ve also said, don’t watch TV news. Because you know it’s okay to keep up with news and I’m sure that they do I know that they do. But don’t watch all day. Don’t turn on CNN or MSNBC or god forbid Fox and try to follow this through the news it’s not worth doing.
And then I just add one more thing which is you know for very young children. You know I remember the immediate aftermath of 911. And I think it’s very important for children to ease the concerns of their very young children that and let them know we’re going to get through this and I want to say this to everybody that’s watching and listening today, we are going to get through this, we are. We’re working very hard to make sure that we keep everybody healthy and safe. We are going to get through this. And when we get on the other side of it I think we’ll look back and say, we did everything that we could. And I think did the right things at the right times.
* There have been concerns expressed by members of the public about delays and getting testing results back. How long does it typically take for test results to be processed….
There are different laboratories that have different turnaround times and of course the more specimens you take in if you have a limited amount of capacity to process those tests there can be a lag in returning the results of those tests. The commercial laboratories that the federal government has contracted with are inundated and it is taking more days to get something back from a commercial laboratory, which used to be the fastest providers, than it does to get a test back from our state labs or from your local hospital or provider that has their own testing capability. So we’re trying to, you know, talk to the federal government about speeding up that process but more importantly here in Illinois. We’re acquiring more testing capability and not only the test kids as we’ve talked about the past, and all the pieces of the supply chain but the actual machines that are doing the work of of giving results and so we’re building up our internal test capability and lab technicians and you know all of the supplies so that we can do it better and faster within the state of Illinois, because the federal government, honestly, their process has not delivered fast results.
* If the governors are bidding against each other for things like PPE and the federal government is not overseeing this, why don’t the governor’s just organize themselves to buy as one and then divide up the goods, maybe the states could come up with a voluntary buying consortium?…
Well that question sounds like it came from a business person because I have for many days now been been working with other states. I have talked to other governors about their needs, but making sure that we make package, you know demand requests to the various suppliers, so that we’re buying in bulk, essentially, for multiple states. So we’re doing that we’re working with different states on different PPE and ventilators and so on. We all have enormous needs. But this points up a problem that you all should be aware of which is what we ought to be doing is doing these kinds of purchases en masse through the federal government, they should have led this to begin with. I’ve said this over and over again and I’ll repeat it. The defense production act which only now has been invoked for one circumstance for one supplier that was GM yesterday, should be invoked across the board because there are a lot of manufacturers out there. And as I have said they are selling often to countries other than the United States, and they have an order book that looks like one of their customers is FEMA, and then they’re competing against New York they’re competing against California against Illinois and all the rest of the states that are trying to put orders in. And so those who are at the bottom of the list and I’ve tried to move us up those lists, but those who are at the bottom of the lists may not see ventilators until you know potentially months after they peak in terms of their COVID patients in their hospital so that’s not going to be very useful for many states.
* Is the administration considering any action related to stopping doctors from stockpiling drugs that may be used as a treatment for coronavirus…
The administration does not seem to be stopping any of the stockpiling of drugs.
What I know is that it is true that there is not yet a known approved treatment for Coronavirus, COVID 19. Please take note of that, because I know that there’s some misinformation out there that you know even the President has repeated sometimes.
What I know is that we have ongoing tests at our terrific globally recognized medical institutions here in Chicago and in Illinois. Those tests are around, new drug applications. There is one called REM des severe which is being manufactured by and put forward by Gilead, still unproven. But it does, it has seemed to be somewhat effective so far.
The tests have to be ongoing here, we have to get to a result to know, because you don’t know what the side effects are going to be, and the side effects can sometimes be worse than the original disease that you’re treating or the virus that you’re treating so we’re continuing to watch that and to make sure that we’re staying ahead of it. And of course the federal government needs to step in here and make sure that those drugs are available to all the states as needed when they become approved.
* What is the situation with availability of ventilators?…
Virtually every state doesn’t have enough ventilators That’s just a fact there was nowhere in the United States that was ready for a pandemic.
The federal government has said they have 10,000 ventilators on hand. Just to give you a sense, New York alone right now says they need 30,000 more ventilators. So the federal government wasn’t ready for this either.
And, to be honest, the president the current president, although he’s blamed previous presidents, also wasn’t ready and hasn’t gotten us ready, even though we knew for two months now that this was going to be a problem.
So what we’re doing is acquiring ventilators wherever we can. We’ve collected up the ventilators around the state of Illinois certainly anybody that’s listening to this knows of a ventilator that has not been contributed to or made available to the state or to local hospitals, please come forward. Let us know about that. We’re out in the market, acquiring as many ventilators as we possibly can. Currently, you know, we don’t have enough we need thousands more than we have today.
There is some discussion about ventilators being moved around the country as hotspots flare up, but it’s not clear to me whether for example, New York will start ramping down their need fast enough for Illinois to be able to use what, New York currently needs and may not need it on the other side of their peak. So, we’re not relying upon that, we’re just out in the market acquiring any piece of ventilator equipment that we can. And as you may have read, even in the state of Illinois the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign has developed a ventilator product that may be usable for us to expand our ventilator capabilities across the state.