* After Dr. Ezike’s presentation, Gov. Pritzker introduced two guests, Jahmal Cole at My Block, My Hood, My City (who delivered a fiery speech), and Neha Gill, the executive director of Apna Ghar. But first he highlighted some groups which have stepped up during the crisis. For instance…
In Carbondale, restaurant owners and chefs came together to launch the Southern Illinois Collaborative Kitchen, providing meals for local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, offering pickup and delivery to customers and supporting area restaurant workers. In Quincy, the Lutheran Church of St john is running a mobile food pantry, to help deliver essential nutrition to nearby rural communities. The Divvy bike system in Chicago has announced another 30 days of free rides for all healthcare workers throughout the month of May.
Click here to learn more about how you can volunteer.
As always, please excuse any transcription errors.
* On to questions for the governor. Very high numbers again this week. I know a lot of that is due to more testing, but have you found any other trends or any other explanation for seeing so many more infections after weeks and weeks of staying home?…
No, it really is a function of doing more testing. And in fact what you’ll find is a lower infection rate. If you do the math here of how many tests done as a denominator and how many positives as a numerator, you’ll see that we’ve come down on average, from what was around 21 or 22% infection rate to something in the high teens.
So I think that’s something for people to look at the gross number of cases you know of positive cases, really isn’t any indication of much other than that we’ve done more testing indeed if we tested everybody in the state we would have a much much higher number.
* Can you reiterate wearing a mask? I’m sure you’ve seen through Chicago today, a lot of sidewalks packed, a lot of public spaces very packed. You’ve said if you can social distance outside you don’t need it. Have you changed your thoughts on that at all?…
No, that’s still what people need to do and I’m glad you asked.
Face coverings are vital for people to wear. In fact, it may be the most important thing that you can do to save other people’s lives, to keep other people from getting infected and to protect people in your own home. If everybody does it, if everybody goes out and takes a mask with them and puts it on make sure you’ve got it on when you are in public and in an area where you’re not likely to be able to keep six foot distance, then you are protecting other people.
One more thing I noticed that people don’t feel like, well, if I’m walking along the sidewalk, and there’s no one six feet behind me and no one six feet in front of me going the same direction. People feel like why do I need to wear a mask? Well you know why, it’s because someone may be coming the direction toward you. You are going to be within six feet of that person for at least a few moments as you pass that person and the next person, and the next person.
So wearing a face covering is extraordinarily important, and I speak, not just over the city of Chicago in areas that are highly populated but even downstate where it’s true that if you’re not around other people you don’t need to be wearing that mask or that face covering. But when you do go shopping, if you go to the grocery store, you’re going to go into a park or something else, where you know you’re probably going to run into other people, you should bring that face covering with you.
* What is your plan if more people are out violating the stay at home order?…
Well, first of all it is local governments and county governments that should be enforcing the social distancing and wearing face coverings and so on.
We need to continue to message to people that it’s not acceptable to gather in large groups or to not wear a face covering. That’s extraordinarily important for us to do. People need to take care of each other, and for the most part people really are. But I know people need to be reminded some people make mistakes, and maybe even purposely gathering groups they think they’re being defiant and that’s okay. I believe me I understand when I was younger I you know felt like I wanted to be defiant to this is not a moment for that this is life threatening to be defiant in this moment about not wearing a face covering or gathering in large groups, you are putting others at risk and your own self and your family.
* Between nursing home outbreaks and the mental health toll this pandemic is taking, are there discussions about ways to uniformly facilitate video communications in nursing homes between loved ones outside and the elderly inside?…
Many of the nursing homes and indeed people who are working in nursing homes are actually helping to facilitate that for the people who are residents of those nursing homes. It isn’t something that the state has a program for, but it is something that I recognize is very important in so many people have a device of some sort, even seniors in a nursing home, often have some kind of device these days, even if it’s simply an iPhone or a, you know, small handheld device. So we want to encourage that because it has been a while now you know we had to impose a strict lockdown of nursing homes, even before the beginning of our disaster declaration in the state. We’ve had nursing homes, not accepting even family members to visit. And I know how hard that is for people but it’s vitally important. Even as difficult as nursing homes have been as a you know a spreading ground for coronavirus and it’s just a fact of life that these congregate settings are well you know the, the fact is that that shutting them down to outside visitors has helped a lot to keep many of those homes either COVID free or fewer infections.
* What is the state doing to curb the number of COVID cases at long term care facilities? If people believe their loved ones are in serious danger because of the lack of care, how can they get them out?…
Dr. Ezike: So, very challenging question in terms of how to curve, we have our strategies, but we know as we look even as to our partners, facing the exact same thing across the state and even in other countries, it’s still a challenge. Let me tackle your second part of your question, if individuals want to take their loved ones home.
I don’t think there’s any rules against that, and we know that congregate care settings are difficult in terms of two people being to a room, being several maybe sometimes several hundred people in a fixed location. So, by its nature, it’s very challenging and if people want to have their loved ones at home and are able to take care of their loved ones, there’s no restriction on that at all. And I think, obviously families can take wonderful care of their loved ones and so full encouragement to do that if people aren’t in a position to do that.
But in terms of what we’re trying to do again, we put out the guidance before there was ever a case in a single nursing home, we started at the end of February and put out clear guidelines where we started, people said initially Oh, that’s too cruel to say that there won’t be visitors, and we were doing it with these, senior citizens in mind that we wanted to decrease their opportunity to be affected by people coming from outside. So we initially put in the the no visitors. We said that people have to be checked all staff have to be checked anyone with symptoms anyone with a fever.
There was, you know, questions that had to be reviewed that you have to attest that you are safe to come to work. We wanted to decrease all the outside people that were coming in for different reasons. The group gatherings had to be had to be stopped. We couldn’t have lots of volunteer groups coming in, again, trying to balance between, some of these social things that really help brighten people’s spirits. But then things that also threaten people’s lives, knowing that the vector, the way that the virus comes into the facility is through people coming from outside the residence or there they didn’t go outside, they didn’t go outside to contract that virus.
* This one from Greg Bishop at the center square. Protester say economic damage from the shutdown is doing more damage to the health and well being of families and individuals, leading to depression, self harm, domestic abuse, lost education opportunities for children, medical procedures put off and many other major societal problems. How do you weigh all of those costs?…
Well, Greg. You’re right. These are all some of the damages that are being caused by coronavirus, there’s no doubt about it. So, you know, we weigh these things in the mix, there’s no doubt.
At the moment,as you know, we continue to climb this curve, though at a much slower pace, the curve that has,increasing the number of hospitalizations and ICU beds filled in our state.
And it’s true even in areas in southern or Central Illinois, it is in Chicago and Cook County in the collar counties. So we’re weighing them. There’s no doubt I want people to get back to work and trying to find safe industries, safe ways to get people back into their jobs, whether they work in an office factory, a food processor or a restaurant or a bar.
These are all things that we’re trying to weigh in the mix and and again there’s a lot of factors to consider as we’re trying to reopen the economy but very importantly, we’ve been listening to the CDC guidance on this. And of course the expert epidemiologists that work for the state as well as for many private institutions in Illinois.
* Also from Greg, with the challenges your authority and the courts, why not have the legislature, wear face coverings as the public is now required to do so when grocery shopping or going back to work and have them come back for a special session to clear up your authority?…
They have the ability to come back and they would i would assume and I would, in fact it’s required that they wear face coverings when they do so.
* And from Amy Jacobson wind radio at your joint statement with Mayor Lightfoot last night you said quote, We must stay the course until data shows further progress and a reduction of new cases and as widespread testing comes online. We are thankful for all the new testing sites you opened up around the state, but wasn’t flattening the curve, based on hospitalizations, because the more people we test the more people we will likely have positive?…
I’m not sure how that last part is related to hospitalizations, but I’ll try to answer the question.
Anyway, we still have increasing hospitalizations or flattened hospitalizations, some areas. And so we need to watch those numbers and have them coming down. A Again I would point once again to the plan that the CDC and the White House put out as a guide for when can you really begin to look at reopening and it’s after you get through the peak, and sometimes that peak is kind of flattening and I’ve been talking about flattening for some time. Truthfully, as we’ve been talking about flattening and bending the curve, as I have indicated, we’re still going up by a little bit.
But whatever you would call it, at the moment we’re not going down. And that’s what we really need to do. Hospitalization is a very important number for us all to pay attention to, ICU beds also very important number to pay attention to, again, the case rate, I would look at the infection rate and not the total case numbers. And then I would look at the per capita infections in all across the state, you know, just because you see a certain number of cases in a county and saves that doesn’t seem like many, it may be that there are very few people live in that county.
* Rebecca at capital news Illinois. This is my semi weekly check in. How are you both doing in terms of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and after some awful protest signs Friday?…
Well, thank you and my family and I are fine.
And well, I will say that the people who were protesting, there were quite a number of people who seem to have been carrying signs filled with hate. There were people carrying signs with swastikas on them, suggesting that they believe in either that they believe in Naziism or they think it’s okay to throw the invective at people with a swastika.
What I can tell you for myself is that I have spent decades of my life fighting against bigotry and hatred. I helped to build a Holocaust museum, I’ve worked with Holocaust survivors. The meaning of that swastika is apparently unknown to the people who are carrying it or if it is known it is a demonstration of the hate that is among us.
Having said all that, these were a few hundred demonstrators, and there are millions of people in the state of Illinois, really good people who are doing the right thing, protecting each other during this extraordinary crisis. And I am so grateful to live in a state with those millions of people.
Dr. Ezike: All is well with me and my family. I continue to hear about people who are more directly affected. I am fortunate. I have a job and I have my health, my prayers go out every day to the people who are not as fortunate, who don’t have the income and who are struggling and so I understand how difficult this is everyone is bearing it differently. And so again, thank you for the concern for me, but the goal is to work for the people who are being disproportionately affected by this pandemic and that’s what we’re all doing and that’s what we’ll continue to do.
* The debate over the graduated income tax will be even more intense because of the pandemic. Can you address concerns of businesses that say it will be a greater burden on them if it’s passed?…
For those who are making that claim, the fact is that when you earn, if you earn a lower earnings in a year, you pay lower taxes. When you earn higher in a year you pay higher taxes. There is nothing new or changed or different about the effect of the graduated income tax during this moment, than there was, you know, four or five months ago before we knew about this pandemic.
Other than that, I think it’s needed perhaps now more than ever. We very much need to alleviate some of the burden on the working class and middle class and people who are striving to get to the middle class, and to also pay for the services that the state has needs to provide, as well as to to deal with the structural deficit that already existed in the state. Not to mention now the shortfall that will exist as a result of the attack of the coronavirus.
* Many protesters I spoke with in Springfield said they didn’t care about the rising number of cases and that’s because they feel that COVID-19 is a hoax. There are also several protesters with racist signs directed towards you. What would you like to tell those protesters?…
I think I said what I wanted to about that, I just you know I will defend to the death or right to be wrong and to say it out loud.
But the fact is that, they look at the facts and they understand that the experts are trying to protect them and the elected officials that are standing on the you know the right side of this are trying to protect them. And so I’m very hopeful that nobody got sick as a result of showing up at a protest and not wearing a mask and not adhering to social distancing norms
* COVID Act Now, which works in partnership with Georgetown and Stanford, claims Illinois are not number is 1.11. You told WJPS Radio this week that it’s 1.25. What is the latest Illinois number as far as you can tell?…
Dr. Ezike: At the beginning was well over three. And as you do the mitigation strategies, obviously that’s not the original R Naught number anymore and the effective R has fallen to our last number about 1.2 something. So again depending on what numbers you’re using but, again, the point is that it definitely came down thanks to the mitigation strategies because people work so hard to stay at home and to help limit the transmission of this virus and so we’re very proud that it came down and, you know, we hope that is not going to see a significant rise as people, as if people change their behavior factor you can stay there.
* This next one’s from Hannah, the daily line, after about a week of a pretty big dip in the positive test rate of those tests and for COVID-19 yesterday’s positive test rate was back up to 21%. And today’s rate is back down to 16%, obviously more testing is yielding more confirmed cases but is there a way IDPH can break down more details about the people who are newly confirmed cases, wouldn’t it be helpful to know if these new cases are concentrated among healthcare workers or grocery store workers in order to both protect them and protect the uninfected public?…
Dr. Ezike: There is a lot of data coming in in terms of, you know, having thousands, maybe I think we had 15,000 come in and so depending on where the samples are coming in from each day. If they’re from a higher risk group, if we did mass testing in a long term care facility. We know that rates of positivity if there was an outbreak there would obviously be higher than if we had a drive thru where we had people who didn’t necessarily have symptoms, but felt that, you know, they had risk because of some of the work they do so again it depends on where the samples are coming in each day.
We don’t even have the time when I get the information from the last 24 hours that’s not even enough time to be able to figure out how many healthcare workers, how many you know to break it down like that, but I know it’s important to understand how many healthcare workers have been affected, we’ve been sharing the long term care facility numbers. Again, we will continue to update the long term care facility numbers and show you that that is a significant proportion of the cases and unfortunately, of the fatalities as well. So we’ll continue to be as transparent as possible.
* The governor has made his feelings, clear about antibody tests. Can you describe any benefit these tests may have and since the lab say they are reporting the results of these tests of the state, what are you doing with them?…
Dr. Ezike: Yeah, so I know there’s a lot of excitement around the antibody test. We would love to be able to say definitively that the results of this test state that you have been exposed and that you have immunity, we’ve already heard from the World Health Organization that we’re not sure exactly how to interpret the results. So we have to be tempered in our response to the test.
But, as people get tested as we learn more as we go forward, we will be able to make more deductions if we see people who had positive antibodies we’ll have to figure out like what level of antibodies was protected so if you had a certain level and then we see that that person goes on to have another COVID infection that would suggest that that level was not protective. So not having the full data, but we will continue to amass it as more and more people are getting the antibody tested. That’s how we’ll be able to make useful deductions and be able to go forward and be able to interpret this important information
* We saw the week of April 25, and with 680,000 weeks of unemployment claims WBEZ reported angry people showing up in unemployment offices. What’s the latest on staffing and capacity at IDs and how big is that backlog?…
I think I reviewed this yesterday but I’ll try to, to, to repeat some of it today. First of all, there is not a backlog in the sense of people have filed something in there and it’s not officially filed. People go online, they create an account and they fill it out and that is then a filing. People call up and file with somebody over the phone and that becomes a filing.
It’s sometimes hard to tell exactly how many people are waiting. What we know is how many that we’re processing it IDES on a regular basis. And that number has significantly increased the, as the weeks go on, as you can imagine, more and more people are filing. Our rate of filing as I say has gone up, a rate of processing rather has gone up and so there is, we are reporting to you kind of what we know about the incoming and what we’re able to to reveal about the incoming processes. We have increased the frontline staffing answering the phones, we have increased the number of people who are working behind the scenes on the IT systems and increased the amount of work. We have outside contractors that are continuing to make sure that that system is up and running as, you know, as much time as possible. It is still this 10 year old system that’s been bolstered, you know from underneath but in the end we’re going probably to have to replace the system. Significant improvements need to be made in the future but it won’t be able to happen during these first months of the coronavirus outbreak.
* If someone is sick with COVID symptoms but not severely ill, is it better for them to just stay home and not get tested for COVID-19 in order to conserve tests for those who may be higher risk or should they get tested?…
Dr. Ezike: If someone was exposed to someone who was laboratory confirmed to have COVID and then they develop similar symptoms, I guess it’s not a big stretch to guess that that person has COVID. Also obviously they would qualify to get tested if they want to be tested.
But if they’re not in the high risk category and are able to stay at home, they’re able to care for themselves that they’re able to connect with a medical provider and just check in, in case the symptoms did progress. That is fine if the person wanted to know for sure to be added to the account. That is fine too.
So, it’s not a directive in terms of what the right way to proceed. Either is fine, but the most important thing is probably to talk with the medical provider and make sure that you’re sharing your symptoms, so that we can make sure that there’s not a point where the symptoms progress that needs acute medical care. But if you’re fine and you’re healthy and you stay home and isolate and identify people who you may have been in contact with even two days before let those people know, so that they can be aware that they have been exposed and that they might need to stand down because they potentially will show some symptoms so that part of the self contact tracing if people are able to help identify people who they have exposed. That’s really helpful to alert other people that they need to be watching out for the development of symptoms.