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Pritzker says 500 hospital beds this week at McCormick Place - Feds sent surgical masks instead of N95 masks - Ezike explains state prison strategy - Why no “recovered” data? Abbott can only produce 50K rapid tests per day- Drop in new cases today does not indicate anything - Not focused on costs except for gouging

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the governor’s press conference was held today with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

The mayor and I would like to give you a further update on the work that we’re doing to stand up our alternate care facility at McCormick Place. Our Illinois National Guard and the US Army Corps of Engineers are on pace to have the first phase of this facility completed this week, and the entire facility up and running over subsequent weeks on Saturday we received our first shipment of 500 beds and the Illinois Central management services and the US Army Corps of Engineers began the initial build.

We’re aiming to have these first 500 beds up this week, followed by the next 500 by next week. The next 1200 and 50 by the week of April 20 and the final 750 acute care beds by the end of the month bringing us to a total of 3000 beds,at McCormick Place.

Based on best practices around the world about how to manage positive cases and contain this virus, McCormick will be dedicated to mostly to non acute COVID 19 patients, people whose condition could benefit from the care of medical professionals, but who are not likely to need a formal ICU.

Of course, as I’ve said before, this is an evolving situation. And if our experts determined down the line that McCormick Place should be dedicated to a different set of criteria, we will shift our mission to follow the medical experts best advice. I want to be clear that McCormick Place is dedicated to supporting our existing hospital system, not replacing our existing hospital system today in Chicago, there are hospitals that have a lot of COVID 19 patients. But there are also hospitals that are underutilized in our COVID response. The first place we are directing our patients is to existing hospital beds, maximizing our underutilized hospitals first. If we never have to go beyond our existing facilities we will all be extremely happy.

But since we can’t guarantee that and in fact, we don’t have the data yet to suggest otherwise we’re actively building out capacity.

In addition to McCormick Place in Chicago, the state alongside the Army Corps has formally launched work on two additional alternate care facilities, the former advocate Sherman hospital campus in Elgin, and the metro South Health Center in Blue Island. We’re aiming to temporarily reopen both of these locations to ensure that we have the capacity that we need. Over the next several months. And I just want to say the work that the Illinois National Guard and the US Army Corps of Engineers have already done what they’re capable of doing is truly phenomenal. I mean incredible stuff. On behalf of a grateful state. Thank you to all of our guardsmen and to our Army Corps of Engineers. And I also want to especially thank Mayor Lightfoot and the entire city team for their partnership in this unprecedented project.

Please pardon all typos.

* PPE situation…

As I discussed last time, we received a fraction of what we asked for [from the federal government]. Our second request to the federal government was larger than our first, but again we received the same small order back from them. […]

Our third federal shipment arrived yesterday. Our team at IEMA is sorting through this delivery now and we’ll make sure that those resources are delivered where they’re needed as soon as possible.

I will say this federal shipments still pales in comparison to our requests and appears to be even smaller than our previous two shipments from the federal government. My team is sorting through the shipment of 300,095 masks the White House personally told me would be sent to our state. And while we do not have a final count on this yet, I can say with certainty that what they sent were not the N95 masks that were promised, but instead were surgical masks, which is not what we asked for.

* IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike…

The truth is, the number of cases will continue to increase, unfortunately as well, the deaths. The cases that I report do not capture all of the people in Illinois with COVID 19. Many of you know that you may have been ill, but didn’t have a test to confirm it. We know that we’re not testing everyone. But I am reporting that there are 461, new cases, and unfortunately eight additional deaths. That brings our total in Illinois to 5057 cases.

* Dr. Ezike on the Stateville cases, which include one death…

There are 12 men who were incarcerated at Statesville who are now hospitalized. Several requiring ICU and ventilator support. There are 77 additional individuals who have symptoms who are being isolated within the facility. We also know of 11 staff who have symptoms and are being appropriately isolated.

Congregate settings, such as Stateville or any other Correctional Center pose unique challenges and stopping the spread of disease, and protecting the health of individuals who live and work there. […]

Ideally, all cases should be isolated individually and close contact should be quarantined individually. I know our partners at the department of corrections are working innovatively to try to create the best situations for these for these facilities. But some correctional facilities and detention centers do not have enough individual cells. And so, we’re considering isolating multiple laboratory confirmed COVID 19 together cases together as a group, or quarantine in close context of a particular case together as a group. Additionally incarcerated individuals may have medical conditions that further increase the risk of disease from the COVID 19.

We do know that Statesville has an older population of incarcerated individuals. So they are at greater risk of experiencing severe illness. Our focus right now is ensuring that these incarcerated individuals receive the appropriate medical care that they deserve and need public health officials are working with the medical staff and physicians who work in the correctional facilities on isolation and quarantine guidance, as well as healthcare triage. Incarcerated individuals who show symptoms are being tested for COVID 19, the Illinois Department of Corrections is taking a number of steps to control the spread of COVID 19 and correctional centers staff who work with the individuals in isolation and quarantine, as well as in the health center are wearing protective equipment. […]

Other congregate type settings are also experiencing clusters of cases, of course. Nursing homes, which we have talked about numerous times, assisted livings and other long term care facilities across the state, including those in Evanston, Joliet, Taylorville and Belleville have all seen some clusters of cases.

* On to questions for the governor. Will he be extending the stay at home order and what about the schools…

We’ve evaluated that every day as you know and I think you saw that the president of the united states extended his recommendations for social distancing and other measures through April 30. So we’re taking that into account as well and as I think the mayor has said in the past and I certainly have said that we’re looking at the models trying to figure out what does this look like going forward and how to best keep people safe and healthy.

* Why isn’t the state talking about COVID-19 recovery numbers like other states?…

Those are difficult numbers actually to obtain. Think about yourself. If you got the flu and you maybe saw your doctor and then you went home and you were at home and you were recovered. You don’t call your doctor at the end of your recovery and say I am recovered now.

And so collecting that information from people who go home, have COVID 19, you know once they’re done, is somewhat more difficult than you might imagine having said that we are working with the county health officials all across the state to get that data. It’s a little easier in slightly more urban environments to obtain that data a little harder in more rural environments, but we are working on collecting recovered. […]

We do know there are quite a number of people who have had it who’ve recovered. We also know … all the experts are coming to the conclusion that people who had it and recovered may have are likely to have developed antibodies that make them somewhat immune to COVID 19 going forward and we think that’s a positive sign.

* Is Illinois behind in testing? And why aren’t all hospital patients being tested?…

Every state is behind, every state is behind in testing. There are not enough tests and you could ask any governor that’s being honest with you, will tell you. Just look at the numbers of tests that have been done even in the large states, it’s minimal compared to the number of people we know already have COVID 19, or have had it, and never knew it. And so this is an enormous problem. I’ve complained about this from the beginning. […]

There is a protocol for testing, again, because there’s a limited number of tests we can’t test everybody all the time. I am very very excited about the development of this rapid app an Abbott test that’s coming out. This is a test that will take no more than 15 minutes to determine a few minutes to determine if it’s positive … The problem is that Abbott can only produce about 50,000 of these a day.

* Is the drop off in new cases today compared to yesterday an indication that we are flattening the curve in Illinois?…

No. … You really have to look at a trend, not a single day. And so we’ll look at tomorrow’s numbers and the next day and the next day. But part of the reason that the numbers fluctuate is because we get reports from commercial laboratories in a different fashion than we get the reports from our state laboratories or from hospitals in the state. So when a test gets sent off to quest or to labcorp or another commercial facility as, as was indicated it could take four to seven days. Well that report is different than the one that came 24 hours.

* What is the cost to the state of its response to the corona virus outbreak so far and what is the estimated cost to be in the months ahead?…

We’re certainly keeping track of that, but I just want to emphasize to everybody that, and I don’t have a total number to report today, but I want to emphasize to everybody that my number one concern right now is making sure that we get the testing that we need to make sure that we have the hospital beds that are necessary, making sure that people get the treatment that they can get from hospitals and doctors that we have the personnel that we need to treat people.

And honestly, you know that the cost is a consideration. We don’t want to get gouged in any of those things. But I am focused on delivering the health care that is necessary to keep as many people safe and healthy and alive as I can.



461 new cases, 8 new deaths - 12 Stateville prisoners hospitalized

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 461 new cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois. Seven new deaths are also being reported, including the death of an incarcerated man from Stateville Correctional Center.

    Cook County: male 50s, male 60s, female 60s, female 70s
    DuPage County: male 60s
    Kendal County: female 60s
    Will County: male 50s, male 60s

Additionally, 12 men who were incarcerated at Stateville are now hospitalized, including several requiring ventilators. There are 77 more incarcerated individuals with symptoms who are isolated at the facility. Eleven staff are also being isolated.

The Illinois Department of Corrections is taking a number of steps to control the spread of COVID-19 in its correctional centers. Staff who work with individuals in isolation and quarantine, as well as in the health center, are wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) and all staff are wearing some PPE. Staff are also having their temperature checked daily as they enter the facility.

Correctional centers with a confirmed case are placed on lockdown, which means there is no movement around the facility except for medical care. Incarcerated individuals who show symptoms are being tested.

Clark, Crawford, Marion, Randolph, and Saline counties are now reporting cases. Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 5,057 cases, including 73 deaths, in 52 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to 99 years.

It appears a death may have been reported at the last moment. Director Ezike just said the total is 8.


A few somethings to lighten the day

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

That $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill does a lot more for small business than many people realize, at least for the first eight weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. But almost certainly more will be needed for that group and a host of others, including cash-strapped state and local governments.

That’s the word from U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumburg, who has focused on small-business issues in his time in D.C. and had some influence on the final stimulus package.

Krishnamoorthi said the bill specifically carves out $377 billion available to almost any small business—defined as a company with fewer than 500 employees, plus sole proprietorships and self-employed individuals. All are entitled to loans equal to two and a half times their costs over an eight-week period. Costs include rent, health insurance and, most important, payroll for workers, including tips.

Those loans will become grants if the business continues to pay its costs, he said. With payroll the biggest cost for most firms, operators will have a big incentive to keep their workers on, converting the loan into a grant, Krishnamoorthi said.

He has more details, so click here.

* IHC Construction Companies

IHC is working an accelerated schedule to complete the Chicago Veteran's Home in the event the space is needed as an…

Posted by IHC Construction Companies LLC on Monday, March 30, 2020

The company also recently donated N-95 masks to a local pediatrics practice earlier this month.

* Tribune

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has seen the internet memes that depict her enforcing the state’s stay-at-home order and clearing citizens from the public way. […]

The images, some of which are collected on the “Where’s Lightfoot?” Instagram page, show the city’s mayor blocking the Lakefront Trail and popping up in unexpected places as part of the anti-coronavirus campaign. […]

“I think this is a really difficult time. People are afraid. The stress levels are high. In any difficult time, I think we’ve got to have a sense of balance. Humor is a big part of it. I’ve actually enjoyed them,” Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference. “We’ve acted out a few in my household at night, which I’ll keep to myself. But I think what it shows is the creativity of people in the city and in the region that despite these dire circumstances, and this virus is deadly serious, that we can also see a lighter side of life.”

She added: “I love them.”

My personal fave…


Slow down, please

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A single source who has been battling with the mayor for months is relied upon for a big splashy “scoop”

CPS students unlikely to return to schools this year, alderman says after mayoral briefing

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday outlined a plan for “remote learning” — including the distribution of lap-top computers to needy students — leaving one aldermen to conclude that Chicago Public Schools students have attended their last day of in-person classes this academic year.

“They’re doing remote learning for the rest of the year. … We have no expectation of them going back,” Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) told the Sun-Times after a conference call with the mayor.

Pressed on whether Lightfoot said students would not return to school buildings for the rest of the year, Lopez said, “I don’t know if that was the exact words. But, that’s the implication— that the rest of the school year will be remote learning. I don’t know why they’d have to go back if they’re all learning at home.”

I checked with three Chicago aldermen after that story came out and they all said Ray Lopez jumped the gun. No determination has yet been made, they said. The mayor was just laying out the CPS remote-learning plan.

That doesn’t mean the story will be wrong in the coming days. I have no idea. But I do know that it’s not right today.

* The mayor was asked about the piece at her news conference today…


Please, don’t be a Covidiot

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Mick Dumke wrote about the Chicago Housing Authority for ProPublica Illinois

But other information from the CHA was contradictory and confusing. On March 10, a resident service coordinator distributed memos to tenants at the Lincoln Perry apartments announcing that, as a coronavirus precaution, the building’s lunch service would only provide take-out boxed meals. To minimize person-to-person contact, residents were asked to exit the dining room once they picked up their food.

However, the memo added, “The dining room will reopen @1:30 pm daily for socialization, ie, all scheduled events, parties, activities, health seminars, etc.”


* Sigh

A West Loop yoga studio has been issued a violation notice after the city disagreed with its contention that it was a place of “health and wellness” and therefore could remain open as an essential business under the state’s safe-at-home order.

The action on Friday came after several people complained online and to their alderman about Bikram Yoga West Loop studio at 611 W. Adams St., concerned that the close quarters and the nature of its hot yoga classes would further spread the coronavirus.

* Oh for crying out loud…

1) That’s a public park and it’s now closed;

2) The government has the right to prohibit activity that presents a potential harm to the populace, particularly during a pandemic;

3) Stop whining on Twitter and go do something proactive and positive for a change.

* Facebook ad…

Get off Facebook.

* Again, get off Facebook

An article on a holistic health blog that has been circulating Facebook tells people to go outside to prevent catching the new coronavirus because sunlight kills it. […]

Only levels of concentration of UV light much higher than what is found in sunlight can kill viruses, the experts note, and the levels that are able to kill viruses can cause irritation to human skin and should be avoided.

Going outside is definitely good for you (as long as you keep a distance from others), but it won’t cure a virus. Some people were just not raised very well.


How will county parties hold legally mandated conventions on April 15th?

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* 10 ILCS 5/7-9

On the 29th day next succeeding the primary at which committeepersons are elected, the county central committee of each political party shall meet within the county and proceed to organize by electing from its own number a chair and either from its own number, or otherwise, such other officers as such committee may deem necessary or expedient. Such meeting of the county central committee shall be known as the county convention.

That statute, in other words, requires individual county party conventions on April 15. The governor’s stay at home order is set to expire on April 7, but he’ll undoubtedly extend it that day, when he’s legally able to renew his state disaster declaration. So, how are the parties gonna get that done?

I reached out to both major parties for a response.

* Dan Kovats at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association…

We’re doing the best we can given the current circumstances. We have provided some guidance to the County Chairs regarding the upcoming County Convention. We are encouraging the Chairs to adhere to the statute while also adhering to the Governor’s stay at home order. We are strongly encouraging only electing the County Chair & Party Treasurer to comply with the statute.

Some of the options we shared include:

    1. Proxy voting or Voting by Mail
    2. Virtual Meeting (conference call or video conference)

Ultimately it will come down to each County Parties bylaws and at the discretion of the County Chair.

Kovats said some county parties do require in-person conventions “and we have asked them to consider suspending that portion of their bylaws.”

But how do they do that if they can’t meet in person?…

That’s the difficult spot we’re in and why we tried to provide options for the Chairs.

…Adding… The full guidance sent to Democratic chairs is here.

* The ILGOP’s general counsel sent a memo to county chairs days ago. Excerpt

Other than the requirement that conventions be held on a particular date, the Election Code only directs that a county convention elect a county chairman, select delegates to the state convention and shall be held “within the county.” There is no statutory requirement that a convention must be conducted in any particular manner. In other words, for county organizations without bylaws that might direct otherwise, a convention could possibly be conducted by a conference call (so long as all participants are within the county), or by use of absentee ballots or other methods to elect a chairman and to conduct business. As for the requirement that state convention delegates are chosen at the county convention, that task may be delegated (as has traditionally been the case) to county chairmen if necessary. Of course, all notice requirements must be adhered to, as always.

For counties with bylaws that dictate how their conventions are to be run, those bylaws will control, and county organizations should abide by them.

I asked the same follow-up question to the ILGOP’s Joe Hackler about counties with in-person meeting requirements. His response…

There may be a few that explicitly require personal presence for participation. However, each of these counties conventions would conceivably have a rules committee that could possibly help offer some relief.


IDHS closes 61 Family Community Resource Centers

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

Press release…

Today, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is announcing that, starting tomorrow, Monday, March 30, 14 Family Community Resource Centers (FCRC) will remain open with reduced staff to balance the need to provide essential services while meeting Center for Disease Control (CDC) social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus situation. FCRCs are the public facing benefits offices that bring nutrition and medical supports to individuals and families across the state. […]

IDHS’s ultimate goal is to have as few FCRC offices open as possible, while still ensuring that all customers are able to receive their life-sustaining benefits. For those offices that remain open, IDHS will continue to take steps to ensure social distancing, customer and employee safety. […]

The 14 of the 75 public facing FCRCs remaining open will have a reduced workforce of 30%- 50% of staff. Staff who are not working at the public-facing offices will continue working remotely to process important benefits, and over 80 in-person local office caseworkers will become statewide ABE (Access to Benefits Electronically) call center agents in addition to the nearly 100 call center agents that are already in place.

The department developed these changes in partnership with AFSCME Council 31, other bargaining units, and advocacy organizations across the state.

There’s more, so click here.

In addition, AFSCME 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch told me through a spokesperson…

(W)e are continuing to urge DHS to close all its offices as soon as it can be assured that clients have access to needed services via phone and/or web. In the meantime, we are urging the department to rotate which offices remain open.


“Used to daydream in that small town”

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

In Buckley, a church has volunteered its gymnasium as a makeshift hospital. In Rushville, police officers have stopped accompanying paramedics unless a call is a matter of life or death. And in Watseka, dozens of residents have put hearts in their windows to create a “social distancing scavenger hunt” for local children.

Such are the ways small-town Illinois is facing the threat of COVID-19, even though its impact outside the Chicago area remains limited. More than 90% of the state’s confirmed cases and deaths have come from the city and collar counties, though doctors note that access to testing downstate is still increasing after a slow start. Even as the virus is being detected in an ever-growing list of rural communities, caseloads are relatively small.

* Yeah, well, things are starting to heat up in Taylorville

Officials on Sunday reported an increase of 11 cases of COVID-19 in Christian County, all linked to the Rolling Meadows Senior Apartments in Tayvlorille.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease to 13 in Christian County. Of the two previously reported cases, officials had said Saturday that one was in the apartments and that other residents would be tested.

“The apartment complex has been placed on quarantine as a protective measure,” the Christian-Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency said in a statement Sunday. “No visitors will be allowed until further notice. The residents are being monitored daily by public health.”

Officials had said Thursday that both previously reported cases in Christian County were linked to services held March 15 at Crossroads Apostolic Ministries in Taylorville. The congregation has fewer than 50 members.

* Remember a couple of weeks ago when DeWitt/Piatt Bi-County Public Health Director David Remmert advised area residents to “Live your life like you normally would”? Well, things change…

“In the overwhelming majority, people have very little symptoms or none at all. That’s why everybody needs to practice those precautionary measures. People who are asymptomatic can go out and spread it,” [Remmert] said. […]

“We believe it’s here. A lot of people probably have it but won’t be tested because they are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms.”

* Related…

* ADDED: First Positive COVID-19 Case in Ford County Confirmed

* More seek assistance at Shumway food pantry: “I know we helped 720 people today,” Kight said. “I’m not sure if it’s because more people are out of work or because other food pantries aren’t open. … “We would normally have at least 40 volunteers working in the building,” Kight said. “Due to the coronavirus, we had to cut it down to 10 working inside.”

* First COVID-19 case in Fayette County prompts disaster proclamation

* COVID-19 cases confirmed in Saline, Randolph counties

* Kankakee hospitals prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 influx: In Watseka, Iroquois Memorial Hospital is setting up a tent as part of its emergency preparedness.

* Caterpillar laying off KK workers because of economic and COVID-19 concerns: “While our operations have been classified as essential activity, the COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on global economic conditions. We are taking a variety of actions at our global facilities to reduce production due to weaker customer demand, potential supply constraints and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions. These actions include indefinite layoffs at our East Peoria building KK location.”

* Session is canceled, but lawmakers are still working: Manar estimates the number of calls fielded by him and his staff “is more than tenfold” from its normal volume. “Much of what I’m doing responding to constituent concerns is just getting them accurate and timely information,” Manar said.

[Headline explained here.]


Question of the day

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Scott Reeder

Illinois has weak price-gouging laws. In fact, only fuel is covered by the state’s price-gouging statute, Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said.

Karr added that price increases often are made by wholesalers supplying retailers. But retailers often are blamed by customers for the price jump.

An executive order filed this month by Gov. JB Pritzker further expanded enforcement of price gouging to include medical and sanitary items used in the fight against the coronavirus, said Tori Joseph, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. She added the attorney general also can use his civil powers to fine retailers he believes have unfairly increased the prices of other items.

For now, his office is calling retailers who customers have complained about unfairly raising prices, and asking them to cut prices.

* The Question: Should Illinois broaden its price-gouging laws? Make sure to explain your answer, please. Thanks.


*** UPDATED x1 *** And the news just repeats itself, like some forgotten dream, that we’ve both seen

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Wordslinger last May, not long before he died, about John Prine

I once came across my daughter singing “…and the news just repeats itself, like some forgotten dream, that we’ve both seen.”

She was five.

Great writing leaves a mark, early, it seems.

The dude should have his named carved on the state library, with the other greats.

Same with Ebert, who first told the masses about the “singing mailman” in 1970.

Keep scrolling way down the link to get to the original Sun-Times review.

* Those lyrics were from this song

* You’ve probably already heard about Prine

John Prine, the postman from Maywood and Army mechanic who became one of the most revered American songwriters of the past half century, is in critical condition “after a sudden onset of COVID-19 symptoms,” his official Twitter feed reported Sunday afternoon.

The news was greeted with an outpouring of well wishes from fans and from fellow musicians, including Seth Meyers, Jason Isbell and the band Dawes.

Prine, who rose to prominence through the Chicago folk music scene in the 1960s and ’70s, “was hospitalized on Thursday. He was intubated Saturday evening, and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical,” said the note “From the Prine family” on the @JohnPrineMusic Twitter feed.

Intubation is a stage of treatment that can precede going on a ventilator. The coronavirus sweeping the globe attacks people through their lungs to the point where the most ill need mechanical breathing help, and the virus is most dangerous to those with underlying medical conditions.

I think Wordslinger was right about carving the names of Prine and Ebert on the Illinois State Library. And when this is all over and people get a chance to breathe again, I’m going to urge Secretary of State Jesse White to consider it.

I had hoped to set up a meet and greet this spring for my readers and Wordslinger’s family, but that’s obviously impossible now. I still think about him every day and wish he was here to provide us with his perspectives. It’s like marching into a war without a leg.

…Adding… Text message from House GOP Leader Jim Durkin…

John Prine was a postman in Westchester when I was young. He would fill in for our regular postman on occasion. Johnny was a big hit with us because he let us push the mail cart down the street with him. He had a heavy beard and was always good to us kids.

*** UPDATE *** John Prine’s spouse…


National Guard drive-through testing limited to 250 per day

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair checked out a National Guard drive-through testing facility in Chicago

With all the various safety procedures and verification points, the process took about five minutes once cars enter the bay. The swab portion lasted as little as 35 seconds between the time Tanton offered her reassuring introduction and the drivers restarted their cars to exit. […]

The results take up to seven days to come back, Illinois National Guard spokesman Maj. A.J. Ruggieri said.

The troops averaged more than 60 tests an hour last Thursday, with the lines moving faster each day. Guard members stop as soon as they use 250 kits, the maximum number of the swabs permitted by the federal government, according to state officials.

On Saturday, the Guard also helped open a testing site in Bloomington in central Illinois. Testing there also tops out at 250 kits each day.

* Pritzker addressed both the 250 per day limit and the week-long lag for test results yesterday

(D)ue 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.

* Speaking of tests...

Five days ago, three state labs, four commercial facilities and 15 hospital labs processed 2,000 tests per day. The governor said that capacity is up to 4,000 daily with a goal of hitting 10,000 daily in the next 10 days.

“That marker 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 102 counties,” Pritzker said. “…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,” Pritzker said. “… 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.”


Don’t be like Italy

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Pritzker said the other day that he was trying to learn from mistakes made by Italy and others to avoid repeating them in Illinois. Dylan Scott at Vox takes a look at what Italy did wrong

Italy’s political leaders did not act preemptively despite evidence suggesting such delayed increases in cases were possible. State-of-emergency declarations were shrugged off by the public and political leaders. In one ominous episode, a group of politicians engaged in deliberate handshakes even after the Covid-19 risks were known — and one of them was diagnosed with the infection a week later. […]

Italy started small with its coronavirus containment and only expanded it as the scale of the problem revealed itself. The country started with a targeted strategy: certain areas with a lot of infections were designated as “red zones.” Within the red zones, there were progressive lockdowns depending on the severity of the outbreak in the area. The restrictions were only broadened to the whole country when these measures did not stop the virus’s spread.

In fact, these limited lockdowns might have made it worse. Because the coronavirus transmits so silently, the “facts on the ground” (number of cases, deaths, etc.) didn’t actually capture the full scale of the problem. Once partial lockdowns went into effect, people fled to less restricted parts of the country — and they may have unwittingly taken the virus with them, according to the Harvard researchers: […]

Italy’s experience indicates that truncated social distancing periods and a mishmash of social distancing policies across different interlocked areas will ultimately only prolong and deepen the problem. Luckily, the country’s provinces that took a more proactive approach may have something to teach their neighbors — and the US.

Click here to read what some places in Italy did right.


A tale of two legislators

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

This is a story about two very different state legislators, representing very different districts with the same strong belief in hope during a time of anguish.

Some legislators are known for their lawmaking abilities and some are known for their constituent services. Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) falls more into the latter category.

The always-cheerful Bennett can attend as many as 10 or 12 events on a weekend day. His district is huge, stretching from just south of Streator all the way east and south to right above Danville. His constant travels caught up to him last year when he was in a bad one-car accident and broke several ribs. But his pace soon returned to “normal.”

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All the events have one thing in common: They’re put on by groups to raise money for worthy causes. “They’re good people, trying hard,” Bennett said, adding that he tries not to eat at every event he attends.

I reached out to Bennett to see if he was experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. He said he was keeping plenty busy. He put up a lot of yard signs throughout the district even though he didn’t have a primary opponent and has been taking them down since the election ended.

While he was doing that, he also visited restaurants throughout his sprawling district that have remained open for carry-out and delivery, and has been highlighting their offerings on social media to help them stay afloat.

He’s on numerous conference calls every day. He had been putting out a weekly newsletter, but it’s now daily. Bennett, like most legislators, is also fielding urgent calls from constituents.

Bennett has two district offices and they’ve been open from 7:30 or 8 in the morning “until well past supper” during the crisis, he said.

”I get my batteries charged by listening to people talk about what’s going on in their lives,” he said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good jobs. But this is … good.”

Meanwhile, one of the most frustrating parts of this pandemic is the insane uncertainty about almost everything.

The state legislative session is just one of a multitude of events that have been upended by the crisis. We simply have no precedent to rely on here. And Senate President Don Harmon made an interesting point when I asked him if he was keeping in contact with House Speaker Michael Madigan.

”I try to stay in touch with him,” said Harmon, who was sworn into the chamber’s presidency just a couple of months ago. Madigan has been running his chamber for decades and was first elected to the House when Harmon was not yet four years old.

”It’s strange that the first big crisis is something neither he nor I have experienced. I thought everything I’d go through, the speaker would have already been through.”

Harmon, who’s known as a policy wonk, said he’s doing some work in his home at the dining room table or at a desk in the family room. The Democratic leader all but closed his district office, which is less than a mile away from his Oak Park house, so he spends a lot of time there.

I asked the rookie president what the lowest point of the past few weeks has been for him.

”I think the starkest point was the realization that I was being asked to make decisions that would literally affect people’s health in such a material way. That was a sobering moment.”

Asked what has inspired him the most, Harmon said it would have to be “the willingness of everyone to put aside the usual points of bickering.”

”In some odd way,” he continued, “I think [Senate Republican Leader] Bill Brady and I are going to have a much more productive relationship in the long term because it was forged in this odd time, when we had a responsibility greater than to our caucus or to our party, but to the state and to the country and to the world.

”And I’ve seen that with Democrats and Republicans. I’ve seen that among the factions in the Democratic caucus. Almost universally people are very willing to put aside whatever petty grievances they may have had before and ask all the right questions. What can we be doing together to help our state and our neighbors through this?”

Harmon also praised the governor for acting capably and for being “very attentive to the needs of the legislature and the caucuses. So, I’m hoping all of these relationships will be stronger because of this, once we return to normal times.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Everyone has their own priorities

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Daily Herald’s Sunday editorial

A primary argument of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislative supporters of a graduated income tax is that we can trust them. We can trust them to use additional money it would generate to shore up the state’s finances. We can trust them not to use it to come up with new ways to spend money. We can trust them not to use the new system to regularly increase income taxes.

By May 3, we will have a good idea of just how seriously we should regard their word.

May 3 is the deadline for the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing a referendum on creation of a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative boundaries, replacing the highly politicized process now in place. If they miss that deadline, the state will not have a chance to address the issue until the next U.S. Census in 10 years. […]

Support for change from the public and within the legislature is clearly strong. Only three people stand in the way of action. Democratic Speaker Mike Madigan decides what legislation gets voted on in the House. Democratic Senate President Don Harmon has that role in the Senate. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has repeatedly claimed to support a new redistricting process, has the prestige and influence of his office to move legislative leaders of his own party.

Not one word in the entire editorial about the international pandemic and how that might impact the deadline.

*** UPDATE *** Some of the sponsors are attempting to dampen expectations

The General Assembly has a May 3 deadline to vote on the Fair Maps Amendment, which would ask voters in a November referendum to approve a state constitutional amendment that would put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission.

State Rep. Terra Costa Howard, a Glen Ellyn Democrat and co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill, said momentum had been building, but priorities have shifted.

“This is my No. 1 priority, but I also have to focus on protecting people’s lives, making sure there is food supply, that businesses can keep running,” she said. “That is the highest priority that we as legislators have right now.”

Co-sponsor state Sen. John Curran, a Republican from Downers Grove, agreed.

“I am very hopeful that we will be back and be able to put this matter before the voters. It is very important,” he said. “And if we are back and able to do that, we will also have known that we turned the corner on this pandemic and flattened the curve.”


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Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Advertising Department

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Wellness check!

Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Are you and yours doing OK?


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Monday, Mar 30, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

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