Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Pritzker says 4,000 tests per day being done, 10K tests per day in ten days - Bemoans federal red tape - Warns landlords against evictions - Asked about construction sites - “We have not hit the peak” - Promises Downstate visit; “Weeks to go” before peak - Says “There’s not enough [hospital] capacity,” points to efforts to expand
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Pritzker says 4,000 tests per day being done, 10K tests per day in ten days - Bemoans federal red tape - Warns landlords against evictions - Asked about construction sites - “We have not hit the peak” - Promises Downstate visit; “Weeks to go” before peak - Says “There’s not enough [hospital] capacity,” points to efforts to expand

Sunday, Mar 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From Gov. Pritzker’s press conference

Even though we’ve moved past the point of pure containment, it remains a priority to further build our testing abilities in part to understand the presence and spread of COVID 19 across the state. In our last testing announcement on the 24th, we were running about 2000 tests per day across our three state labs, our four commercial labs and our 15 hospital labs. Today we’re now averaging around 4000 tests per day. And in total we have now run nearly 28,000 tests here in Illinois with 30 Hospital and clinical laboratories now up and running.

Within the next 10 days we believe that we will be up to 10,000 tests per day. Again, we’re at 4000 today. That marker 10,000 is significant because it’s the number of tests per day that the scientists and experts tell us that we need to get a truly holistic understanding of the virus in each of our hundred and two counties.

Right now we’re working with roughly the same data that the majority of states are working with. That gives our state a rough picture of the viruses landscape across our state and in our municipalities by extrapolating the data using modeling largely based on the viruses spread in other countries. This 10,000 a day marker will give us the data to run a more mathematically significant model that offers us improved insight into how well our interventions are working. Ultimately, my goal is to reach a large enough testing capacity, where we’re able to test. Everyone who needs a test on a regular basis. But for right now all of the experts point to 10,000 tests as the standard that we need to achieve again.

Again, I want to be frank with you, where we are now is not where I want to be. Every day we aren’t hitting 10,000 tests or more is another day that we’re not able to get answers that help us get past this current crisis.

And to be clear though, loss of essentially the entire month of February in the effort to scale up robust testing, and the exponential spread that followed, was a profound failing of the federal government. State leaders have spent every day since then, trying to correct for this foundational mistake.

Nationally, there have been some improvements in testing, but we still have so far to go. The United States is still trailing other countries in testing on a per capita basis, several times over. In all the states we are working to fill the gap.

But the most frustrating part of this gap is, it’s not just in the past. The White House has promised millions of tests for weeks now and they’re just not here. To be clear, I also welcome the testing capacity when it actually arrives, but I’m not going to wait on promises from the federal government that may never be fulfilled. We need this testing capacity now, so we’re building it ourselves in Illinois.

Here’s how we’re getting there. All three of our state labs are running a second shift of technicians to run samples, and we’ll be adding a third shift when we can get our hands on an even larger supply of the reagent and viral transport media, and other material elements needed beyond the swabs themselves.

Second, and this is key, we’re acquiring additional laboratory robotics to load our 12 real time PCR machines at a multi thousand unit increase in single day capacity. We’re getting our first two machines on loan. And we’ll have them up and running by Tuesday, and we expect the others later this week. This technology is crucial, as it replaces manual loading and shrinks down the bottleneck for results. We’re working with the University of Illinois discovery partners Institute to ensure our staffing and logistics reflects this increased capacity, as well as exploring options with the Illinois State Police to utilize their manpower to move materials and equipment to maximize daily capacity at each of our three state labs.

You also might have heard that Friday, Abbott Laboratories, an Illinois company announced a portable five minute rapid test for COVID 19. That same night I picked up the phone and I spoke with the president of Abbott, and the CEO of Abbott separately to ask that Illinois be first in line. I’m proud to say that they expressed their real dedication to taking care of their home state, and will be very helpful to us here in Illinois as their production ramps up. In a parallel effort, we’re collaborating with our university and hospital partners to ensure Illinois’ commercial testing can grow as fast as possible.

As for our drive-thru testing, we’ve added a fifth facility since our last testing update the Illinois National Guard, really truly an amazing group, the Illinois National Guard has opened up a second state run drive thru testing facility in McLean county yesterday, joining our Harwood heights community based testing site in northwest Chicago, and the three federal HHS sites in Bolingbrook North Lake and Joliet. Our state run sites have been a huge success. And in addition to our McLean county site. We’re investigating additional areas around the state to launch potential drive thru locations symptomatic first responders healthcare workers seniors and all people with underlying health conditions will be able to visit these sites.

* Federal red tape and delays…

Still, due to the federal government requiring federal personnel representation at our two state drive throughs we remain tied to a 250 test cap at each of these locations. We know there’s greater need at our longer running Harwood Heights site. We’ve been hitting 250 tests by just the early afternoon, and having to turn people away. We’d like to be able to test more than 400 people a day at these sites and think that we can. We have the capacity to do so. So we’re pushing the federal government to change their requirements and allow us to test more than 250 people were turning people away that we just shouldn’t have to. And we asked the federal government to remove their restriction.

We’re also pressuring the federal government on the return timelines of these tests. The private labs contracted by the federal government are taking four to seven days, sometimes even up to 10 days to turn around results. That is far too long. We’re doing it much faster in the state of Illinois, with the capacity that we have.

* Evictions…

We’re seeing news stories out of other states about nurses being thrown out of apartments or are denied the ability to rent their apartments out of fear of exposure by other tenants. We’ve not yet specifically heard of instances like that here in Illinois. But let me be very clear, that will not be tolerated in our state. I want to remind everyone that evictions are prohibited during this disaster to begin with. But I also want to make sure that landlords are not inappropriately terminating leases. So let me say this here in Illinois we are fortunate to have a very strong community of attorneys that are ready to fight for nurses and for all healthcare workers to make sure that their rights are protected. If any healthcare workers encounter this situation. They should immediately contact the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for assistance.

* On to questions for the governor. Why haven’t construction projects been halted? Some are complaining that they are working too close together on the sites…

Well, it’s certainly up to the companies that are doing the construction to make sure that people are social distancing that are working there. There should be an opportunity at most construction sites to do that. But to the extent that they’re not able to, that is a concern certainly for me and it should be for the owners of the companies that people are operating those construction sites. So anybody that is concerned about that certainly should be reporting that to the Department of Public Health or letting my administration know, because there is, remember that much of what is being done is essential work that’s been determined at least as essential under our order and we don’t want anybody to be at risk but but we also want to make sure that we’re, you know, continuing the necessary work across the state. So please, anybody that’s experiencing that should let us know.

Again, please pardon all typos.

* Asked about closures of local parks and forest preserves…

Those decisions are being made on a city by city, county by county basis, and should be by the locals there.

* Reached the peak?…

No we have not hit the peak here in Chicago, or in the state of Illinois and we’re going to continue to see an increase unfortunately of cases, and likely deaths.

* There have been a lot of reports nationally about the PPE shelf life extension program. Has the federal government let Illinois extend the shelf life of COVID 19 intensive supplies and how big is that stockpile?…

All of the PPE that we have in the state anything that is expired or deemed to be expired is being checked it’s being sampled and checked. According to the regulations for extending that shelf life so we’re trying to be very careful about any PPE that’s being distributed that has any extension and making sure that we’re keeping our healthcare workers safe. I should also add though that we’re running through PPE at a reasonable clip across the state. We’re also acquiring millions of units PPE. Most of what we are acquiring is being shipped out to locations where they’re running through the PPE so I would expect that in many places they’ll be using the PPE that was recently acquired recently manufactured. And we’re going to continue to make those acquisitions, so you’ll be seeing even more PPE but we’ve checked with all of our local health departments and continue to talk to the hospitals and health care centers to make sure that the end nursing homes and other locations where we need PP to make sure that people have what they need. And that we’re supplying them with anything that they may need, especially in the near future.

* Governor, people downstate need to hear from you in person. And provided you and your staff can travel safely without becoming ill, when will you be back downstate?…

I appreciate the question and I always love to be in downstate Illinois. I was there just a week ago I think, it seems like about a month or two ago, but that’s the way time is moving right now. In Murphysboro, in Springfield, and elsewhere and I am in Carbondale, so I’m going to, I am not reticent to travel. And I certainly will try to find a moment in the near future.

I would just remind you, though, that the virus has been so severe in North Eastern Illinois in the in Chicago in the collar counties. I’ve tried to make sure that I’ve been on hand to make decisions here about the thousands and thousands of people that have been affected here, while also looking seriously at the areas of the state like St Clair and Madison counties, like Jackson County Peoria and Champaign where there’s been a rising number of cases. But I’m glad somebody asked and I’m always glad to travel and I will do so and sometime in the near future.

* The University of Washington projected the COVID 19 apex in Illinois at April 16, and forecasted 2454 deaths by August. Do those figures and other data in this analysis align with the current state projections?…

We have our own statisticians and and modelers that along with the scientists and experts here, we have now taken that University of Washington data and melded in some of the conclusions that they reached, looked at the data sets that they had, and tried to make sure that we’re doing the right thing in terms of our modeling here in Illinois. We’re not concluded, every day there’s new information that goes into these models. But I think that it is fair to say that most of the models that I’ve seen and we’ve seen a number of them show that we’ll be peaking sometime in April in Illinois. And we’re not yet close to that, you know, we have weeks to go.

* Is it a foregone conclusion that our medical infrastructure will be vastly overwhelmed in a few weeks? What are you going to do about it?…

Oh my goodness. That is my number one concern is to make sure that we don’t have our medical capacity overwhelmed. But I must say when you look at New York, when you look at other places in the country, and you see how fast the beds are filling, the ICU beds, hospitalizations and so on. You can’t help but feel that they have been running as hard as they can to create capacity and to mitigate and put in orders.

So, in terms of the mitigation efforts that we put in place, I am pleased that we were able to be early, or at least to do it as quickly as possible. And that has helped us to drop the number of cases that we think will hit the hospitals going forward.

But I must tell you that there’s not enough capacity today. That is why you see us building out facilities across the state, that’s why you see us putting in triage centers. We’re building, our national guardsmen and others are putting up tents and other facilities at 10s of dozens of hospitals across the state to make sure that we’re able to keep people separate, that the epidemic doesn’t fly through an emergency room for example. And then we’re building out capacity at some hospitals to just literally add beds in an on to facilities that already exist, and then McCormick Place and the hospitals that we’re looking to turn on in the next couple of weeks.

* Question for IDPH Director: If you don’t have adequate testing yet and we’re already roughly halfway through the stay at home order, then how do we measure the rate of transmission? Do we have any evidence to suggest that the spread is slowing?…

In addition to testing, we also have the hospital data. Every day, we collect the number of people who are admitted with COVID disease, who have coded like disease, who maybe haven’t had their testing. We’re checking the amount of people with these illnesses that require ICU admission that require the use of a ventilator. And so following those numbers as well, that gives us a track and actual good data in terms of how this is growing and how this is spreading and how our capacity might be reached and how much more we will need. So those data are additional data points that we can use for the modeling that can supplement what we don’t have with widespread testing.


…Adding… I should’ve added this. The question for the IDPH Director was: “What information can you tell us about the nine month old who has died? Is it known how the baby contracted the virus, have the parents tested positive? And what is the status of the other infant who tested positive?…

The investigation of the infant that we reported about yesterday is still very fresh. We are trying to gather all the data before speaking. I know that there’s a lot of concern as hearing about the death of an infant who also had COVID. And so we really want to get a complete report.

Gov. Pritzker also responded…

I would remind parents out there that this is highly uncommon. I mean, it really is highly uncommon. That isn’t to say that that every infant is safe, but it just is. It’s so uncommon that, at least when I started to do the work and listen to the experts about it, I got at least some comfort in the idea that this is not something that we should expect to hear a lot more of, because it’s just not happening very often at all.

* Some hospitals nationally are continuing to do elective surgeries because they have to worry about their bottom line. How does that fit in with the coronavirus directives in Illinois?…

Well, first of all, we, you know, we had to make space for there’s an elective surgery somebody can put off, then we had to ask people to do that. And we realized that it has a financial impact on hospitals. But I have to say, first to the credit of the hospitals, that was not their primary concern when they heard that we were considering it they understood that we needed to do this. And many of them wanted to let us know how quickly they could get to a state where they’re not doing elective surgeries. And so I’m very proud of those institutions and I thank them very much for their willingness. There is a significant financial impact on the hospitals and that’s why the last relief package had a large amount over 100 billion dollars. That was dedicated to hospitals and health centers precisely in part because the impact of COVID 19 on hospitals, has been, I mean, you know, severe, and they’re doing the work anyway they’re they’re doing it and they’re, you know they’re losing money doing everything that they’re doing, but they’re saving people’s lives and I’m so grateful for that we’re gonna work very hard with our federal delegation to help take care of the hospitals that have stepped up. All of them have


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