Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike are holding daily COVID-19 press briefings as cases and hospitalizations in Illinois reach record highs. Read and listen to the latest update from the governor’s office on new cases, phased re-opening and closings of different regions and the state’s ongoing pandemic response. You can watch the most recent press briefings at 2:30pm every day here on Illinois Newsroom.
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Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the COVID-19 update for Wednesday, December the 16th. Today Dr. z cache will kick us off with today’s news from idph. But I want to first provide our most updated scheduled vaccine delivery figures from the federal government. Previously, federal authorities had notified us that they planned to ship out nearly 8 million Pfizer vaccine doses to states large cities and territories across the country next week. However, as of this morning, I’m disappointed to learn that the US Department of Health and Human Services informed us that per the direction of operation warp speeds General pirna. That estimate was tightened significantly, down to 4.3 million doses shipped nationally next week. The following week, originally projected for another 8.8 million doses, is also now scheduled to be 4.3 million doses. This development will likely cut our state’s projected Pfizer shipments this month by roughly half.
The same is true across the rest of the nation. This does not affect vaccine shipments that already arrived at our Strategic National Stockpile on Monday, as part of our initial 109,000 doses for this week, shipments to regional destinations across the state remain on schedule. Again, this is the latest from the federal government. So I wanted to make sure that all Illinoisans had the most up to date information on this rollout as soon as I do. I will continue to update you with new information as we learn it from the federal government. Thank you. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike
Dr. Ngozi Ezike
Thank you, Governor and good afternoon, everyone. Today we are reporting 7123 new individuals that have been diagnosed with covid 19 for a total of 870,600 cases statewide. Sadly, we also received report over the last 24 hours of 146 individuals who lost their life to COVID-19 for a total of 14,655 deaths in Illinois. overnight. 4793 individuals were in hospitals across Illinois with COVID of those 1045. We’re in the intensive care unit and 590 we’re on ventilators. In the last 24 hours more than 93,000 tests have been reported. And we have just passed the 12 million test Mark since the beginning of this pandemic. The excitement of the week continues as more vaccine gets pushed out across Illinois and into the arms of our workers in health care settings. And each week, although it may be reduced, but we will continue to receive new allocations of vaccine and the number of people eligible to be vaccinated will expand. The news of the vaccine is cause for celebration. But of course, again, I reiterate that it does not signify the end of the pandemic. Not yet, but it is the beginning of the end. It’s this last mile. But that last mile of the super marathon has quite a few bumps and hurdles, but we will get through it together. First, we do need to get enough vaccine and have it readily available to the public at large. You’ve just heard about some of the decreases in the coming allotments, so we will continue to endure those challenges. Second, we need to make sure that people are actually getting vaccinated, there is a clear difference between vaccine and vaccination.
Even if we had doses in the ultra cold freezers for every individual in Illinois, if they don’t come out of the ultra cold freezers and get into the arms of individuals, we make no progress on this pandemic. Thirdly, we cannot forget the important foundational things that we have to continue doing. And that of course includes wearing our masks, avoiding gatherings and keeping our distance to reduce the amount of virus circulating in our communities. Using this very layered approach will get us to the end of the pandemic and then we truly will have that time for celebration. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Dr. z k. And today we’re also joined by our D co director Aaron Guthrie, as well as Cook County Board President Toni preckwinkle. I want to thank both of you for being here today, we sit at a defining moment in our history. This week marks the first COVID-19 vaccinations of our frontline health care workers, and the beginning of the end of this pandemic that has stolen so much from us. It has also unveiled and exacerbated some of the deepest fissures in our pre pandemic normal. Months remain in our battle to get to the other side of this ocean of challenges. But we are now at a point where we can finally see the other side. I know so many of us are eager to get back to normal in many facets of our lives. But it’s incumbent upon us to not forget the ways that COVID-19 has highlighted the inequities that low income families have long faced, and the ways it’s accelerated the need for us to respond.
One of the largest gaps made even more significant in this pandemic is the digital divide. How can your child learn from home if you don’t have internet access? How can you shop for groceries safely online if you don’t have a computer, accessing the digital world has become essential for students, for small business owners for patient doctor communications for job applications. Really, there’s no realm in which connecting online hasn’t become absolutely necessary in the modern era. That’s why we don’t stand a chance of achieving equity if it isn’t accessible to everyone. Long before we had ever heard of COVID-19 I set the ambitious goal of bringing broadband digital infrastructure to every corner of Illinois by 2024. through a program called Connect Illinois, the largest and most ambitious state matching grant program in the nation for development of our broadband infrastructure. And we are well on our way toward the goal of making broadband accessible for every Illinois when we’ve launched $100 million in capital this year alone with $50 million in capital grants deployed to communities and another $50 million of matching grants being offered to further connect communities early next year. I’m very proud of the work that my administration is doing to ensure broadband is available to everyone across our state. But even with that the ability to plug into broadband means nothing when you don’t have a device to start with, and in our state have nearly 4.9 million households, and estimated 1.1 million of them currently do not have access to a computer. That means 1.1 million families can’t connect and communicate by email, use e learning resources, do a job search work online from home, pay bills electronically and so much more. So today, I’m announcing a first of its kind statewide initiative to put computers in the hands of those who need them. The Connect Illinois computer equity network is what it’s called.
This new collaboration between our Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the nonprofit PCs for people will provide refurbished and modernised computers to those in need. And I’m excited to say that PCs four people CEO, Casey Sorenson will be streaming in today to talk more about this program and the critical nature of this work. Today, we’re announcing an initial commitment of 20,000 devices, to families in need all across the state. As we grow the program, it’s businesses and philanthropists that will make this program successful. So I want to put the call out to all of them to help us in the spirit of this holiday season. I’m asking Illinois companies to join us in this effort to build on our initial down payment. When your upgrade cycle gets renewed and your old technology in your company no longer fits the needs of your employees, you can donate it, and it will be upgraded for use by a family in need. By doing so you put us one step closer to ensuring that all Illinoisans can participate in the 21st century’s digital economy. And of course, everyone is invited to donate your outdated own computers to just visit illinois.gov slash computer equity network that’s illinois.gov. Slash all one word no spaces community sorry computer equity network. That same website. It also contains all the information on eligibility to receive a device from this program, and a full list of community events for dropping off or picking up devices in your area. Events are already underway in Metro East in Cook County and in other parts of the state.
More distribution events will kick off next month, with the list of locations updated regularly, so check in on a regular basis. Importantly, events will take place in all 102 counties of Illinois in 2021. Earlier this year, PCs for people began its pilot at a facility in Metro east, an initiative of the Illinois COVID-19 response fund that I launched at the beginning of this pandemic under President Toni preckwinkle. His leadership, a counterpart to the metro East operations has now been established in Cook County, which will serve as the clearinghouse for the North and Central regions of our state. The Jewish united fund is another one of our early partners in this initiative. In the context of the pandemic they saw an immediate need for these resources. And I want to personally thank them for committing $250,000 to the computer equity network. I launched the Connect Illinois program last year with $420 million focused on addressing digital inequity everywhere, wherever it is needed to be addressed and wherever it exists. We’re targeting capital dollars to rural and urban areas, lacking connectivity, expanding local broadband capacity, providing computers to households in need, and building digital literacy and skills. This is a multi pronged assault on the digital divide with the hope of ending it once and for all in the state of Illinois. With that I’d like to turn it over to one of the leaders in this fight. dceo director Erin Guthrie
Aaron Thank you so much, Governor Good afternoon, everyone. I’m good afternoon I’m Aaron Guthrie, Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, also known as dceo. I’m thrilled to be here today to join the governor Cook County president Toni preckwinkle. And PCs for people as we launched the first ever statewide network for computer refurbishing in Illinois. dceo is the home to the office of broadband, where we play a central role in delivering the broadband capital program called Connect Illinois. This program envisioned by Governor Pritzker puts forward $420 million dollars to bring Illinois communities universal access to broadband infrastructure by 2024. I’m proud to report that we’re well on our way toward this goal. However, there’s much more that needs to be done to fully bridge the digital divide as we see it here in Illinois. Given the urgency of these challenges, especially at a time of economic crisis, our department is operating on a three pronged strategy for digital equity. First by building high speed infrastructure as I just mentioned. Second, we’re issuing grants to help communities with digital literacy training through our digital navigator program. And now, with the launch of the Connect Illinois computer at computer equity network that the governor just announced will complete the missing piece in our strategy to build capacity and connectivity for all Illinoisans. Our program addresses what is currently one of the biggest barriers facing households that are lacking digital and broadband access, and that’s access to devices home. As the governor said about 23% of households do not have access to a laptop or desktop computer in Illinois.
The State of Illinois will host community distribution events in every county across Illinois to get these upgraded devices to eligible families. And I want to be clear, these are more than just handoff events. In addition to closing the gap on devices, these events will provide on site support to help families access low cost internet service and digital literacy courses, ensuring that we don’t just give people computers but also an understanding of how to make the most of them. Casey from PCs, for people will describe this process in just a few minutes. But because we know that sourcing hardware is a limiting factor in this work, we are here today to call on Illinois companies to help us meet this challenge. Just like our broadband infrastructure program, which asks for matching, the computer equity network relies on corporate partnership to accelerate this urgent work. So if you take anything away from our announcement today, it’s our message to Illinois businesses, we are counting on you to maximize the impact of this initiative. Your donation is essential as we work to close the gap. For those interested in donating or applying, again, the email excuse me, the website is illinois.gov backslash computer equity network to read more about how to support this cause.
Finally, I want to close by saying that the work of the Office of broadband would not be possible without the support of many many local partners from the philanthropic community and at the local level. This includes the Jewish united fund the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois and the Urban League who have helped stand up the metro East hub. And locally, our cities and towns play a crucial role as we build a universal broadband plan that truly matches the needs of their residents. Cook County has been leading the charge on addressing issues of digital equity since the time before the pandemic hit. And now they’re joining us and standing up the hub of statewide network to support more residents in cook and across the state. We thank them for their continued partnership. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to President preckwinkle. Thank you.
President Toni Preckwinkle
Thank you, Director Guthrie and good afternoon, everyone. I’m pleased to be here today to launch an important new initiative to expand digital access to low income families in Illinois. Thank you Governor Pritzker, and director Guthrie for your partnership on these critical intersecting issues of digital equity and economic development. I often talk about how we can advance racial equity in government through policy and practice. During such a difficult year, we’ve seen how existing inequities in our system are worsened during a public health crisis, such as one we’re experiencing. This year, these intersecting challenges have come to the forefront, as many residents have had to trance transition to digital work or learning this year. In many households having one shared computer device is not enough to meet the demands of working parents and multiple children who are learning virtually through our partnership with PCs for people Cook County and the state of Illinois are proud to be taking action Today represents the launch of a statewide effort to distribute refurbished computers, digital literacy programs and workforce training to residents who need it most.
This initiative will help narrow the digital divide in our communities while providing new work opportunities. These efforts will connect hundreds, hundreds of Illinois residents with the devices necessary to access the internet for learning, remote work, telehealth and more. But we can’t do this alone. I joined governor Pritzker and asking public private and philanthropic partners to donate equipment to this initiative. Everyone needs to do their part as we look toward a long term equitable recovery. While we’re proud of these efforts, we know this will not be enough. That’s why earlier this year, Cook County launched code Council on digital equity, a body of local members and senior advisors to provide expertise and guidance. As we address digital inequities. We appreciate their service as we build on our commitment to support sustainable action to advance digital equity. I look forward to the work ahead and make to make digital equity a reality in Cook County and across the state of Illinois. I’d like to thank Michael Albert and Mark Utica. I think I did that right? For being sign language interpreters. I want to thank all of you and return the podium to Governor Pritzker.
Thank you very much. So thanks, especially to President preckwinkle for her leadership, not just on this subject, but on so many things during this pandemic. And it’s been terrific partnership and I know that the people of Cook County are very grateful as well. It’s now my honor to introduce our next guest, a great ally in the battle to destroy the gap in the digital divide. And that’s the CEO of PCs for people. Casey Sorensen, Casey.
Thank you. PCs for people is honored to be partnering with Governor Pritzker Cook County, and businesses across Illinois. The State of Illinois and its Office of broadband have been leaders in the US with an ambitious plan to get broadband to every corner of the state. However, to be able to use broadband for things like education, jobs, and telehealth, household needs a computer and technical skills. That’s where we come in. For those who have not heard of us. PCs for people started 22 years ago, when a computer was given to a troubled view. The computer transformed the boy’s life. He went from being expelled from school, to having a job creating web pages for churches and local businesses. It’s easy for many to take for granted access to a computer and internet. But the pandemic has shown us millions of kids cannot access education, and many people need tech skills to find new jobs.
Over the last 22 years PCs for people has built a sustainable Digital Inclusion program that starts by offering certified it recycling. We currently partner with over 1500 businesses from banks and hospitals to high tech firms and local government to collect the retired Tech Data is securely sanitized and incoming computers are cleaned, tested and reinstalled with a new licensed copy of Windows. Work has already begun to get tech families across the state. We received a COVID relief grant in the fall, which just allowed us to launch a distribution center in Metro east. From this site. There are scheduled computer district but bution events and each of the 41 counties in Southern Illinois, including one today. We’re now building a second distribution center in Cook County. Northern Illinois events will begin starting in q1 of next year. Eligibility for our program is the 200% Federal Poverty Level.
Visit our website at PCs for people. org slash Illinois to learn more. In our first year in Illinois, we will connect at least 20,000 homes. A key to growing this program is building partnerships. We have received a warm welcome from local corporations. And now with the governor’s call to action. we’re optimistic about announcing many new partnerships in the near future to help us sustain supply to reach Illinois families. This has been a challenging year for many here and across the US are again honored to work with the governor on this initiative to provide connectivity and opportunity for the future.