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Pritzker’s Daily COVID-19 Briefing Full Transcript And Audio — Dec. 18, 2020

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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.

Have a question about COVID-19? Ask Illinois Newsroom, and we’ll try our best to answer. The questions we receive from you directly inform the stories we tell and what we investigate. Let us know what you need to know!

 


 

Gov. Pritzker

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the COVID-19 update for Friday, December the 18th. I’ll start with some housekeeping that might be bringing some relief to our tireless press corps. This holiday season, we’re moving away from daily press conferences and instead returning to an as needed basis. This is my 42nd consecutive weekday press conference this fall, and my 100 and 55th COVID-19 press conference. Since the beginning of this pandemic, I can promise that you’ll still be hearing from Dr. Ezike and me often as we provide regular updates on vaccine distribution, the status of our regions in the Restore Illinois plan and general statewide COVID-19 trends.

It’s important to Dr. Ezike to me that we communicate regularly about the pandemic to the public as the situation evolves. As of this morning, for example, I’m pleased to report that over 17,000, Illinoisans outside of Chicago have received their first vaccine dose to prevent COVID-19, up from 3500 I announced yesterday. Also, since we last spoke, the FDA’s independent vaccine Advisory Committee offered its endorsement of the Madonna vaccine for adults 18 and over just as it did for the Pfizer model last week, in that case for adults 16 and over per FDA data. This Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective after two doses four weeks apart, nearly identical to the 95% rate of the Pfizer vaccine after two doses three weeks apart. And it’s proven very safe in clinical trials. Historically, the FDA rules in the direction of these panels, and we expect their endorsement as soon as today. Our own vaccine advisory panel is poised to review all available FDA data, assuming a favorable outcome and based upon the federal government’s likely delivery schedule. Illinois hospitals can expect their Moderna shipments sometime early next week. This is yet another very, very exciting development, and it reinforces and it brightens the light at the end of the tunnel for all of us who have been fighting through COVID-19.

As December comes to a close, and as the deadline to fully allocate our federal cares funding approaches, I want to provide an overview of where we have invested those dollars to support working families and small businesses. beyond just the reimbursement of expenses for our state response like PPP, and setting up testing sites. For much of the last year, we have had to completely revamp the operations of state government in response to this pandemic, with agency staffers working around the clock to figure out new and sometimes very innovative ways to deliver services remotely and to implement new programs to meet enormous needs that were truly impossible to foresee a year ago.

Over the summer in partnership with the General Assembly, I announced a series of programs dedicated to supporting our small businesses and our working families who have been hit hard by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and structuring each with a significant focus on equity, ensuring that disproportionately impacted areas receive their fair share of support. I’m especially proud to say Illinois led the nation in ensuring that our cares act dollars went to the front lines of the economic dislocation impacting the lives of the people we serve. We’re only the sixth largest state by population. But Illinois launched the largest Housing Assistance Program and the largest small business assistance program in the country. Today we’ve awarded $190 million in rental assistance supporting more than 38,000 renters suffering financial hardship from the pandemic, and $84 million in emergency mortgage funds to help nearly 9500 homeowners stave off foreclosure. The grants went directly to landlords to pay rent, and to mortgage service providers to pay mortgages, which has maximized the number of those dollars in stabilizing our housing market and our communities when these programs were launched last year, August. The goal was to assist 40,000 renters and homeowners with $300 million in aid. But with additional Coronavirus relief funds from my administration, we extended our reach and assisted even more families across Illinois. By the end of this month, we will have provided $325 million in emergency housing assistance to 54,500 renters and homeowners across the state.

Everybody deserves to have a roof over their heads, especially in a pandemic. And I want to thank the Illinois Housing Development Authority for their work to make a difference in the lives of so many people. The final dollars for this program will be out the door by mid-January unless Congress includes the $25 billion in rental assistance that’s currently in the bipartisan Coronavirus relief package. I’m regularly pushing Congress to give more help to families in Illinois. If additional federal assistance passes the US House and Senate and becomes law expect Additional rounds of emergency rental assistance in the near future to help give relief to those who were unable to previously take part in this critical program. I also directed $90 million in cares funding for a total of $275 million to increase the number of families eligible to receive emergency assistance, for rent for food for temporary shelter, utility bills and other essential services through our low-income Home Energy Assistance Program, and our Community Services Block Grant Program. These programs have supported more than 155,000 Illinois families, to families seeking assistance to pay your bills, please visit HelpIllinoisfamilies.com. To learn if you’re eligible to submit an application, it’s open to all low-income residents regardless of immigration status. And remember, this is a program not a loan program. It’s a grant program. So, I really do encourage those in need to apply and again, you should go to HelpIllinoisFamilies.com.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbones of our communities, and the drivers of our economy. And I know the sacrifices that you’ve made have been enormous. That’s why it’s so important to me that you get the support that you need. Our business interruption grants ranging from $5,000 up to $150,000 have a targeted focus on the small businesses that truly need help. 85% of our grants have gone to businesses with annual revenues of $1 million or less. To date, we’ve awarded over $214 million in grants to more than 7500 businesses in Southern Illinois, in Central Illinois and in Northern Illinois. This funding has been deployed in more than 500 communities to small businesses, including restaurants, retail event spaces, arts, venues, hair salons, museums, and much, much more. Nearly half have gone to businesses in disproportionately impacted areas. Recognizing the ways COVID impact was compounded by civil unrest earlier this year, helping more businesses avoid a dual crisis of recovery. Given the limited funding available, and the high volume of applications received DCEO has closed the latest round of big, big grants, with the hope that federal support will allow it to reopen applications. The state will continue to focus on reviewing applications that have already been submitted and making additional awards. Over the next several weeks, we will notify all big applicants who will receive an award by December 30. And with a separate $270 million of our business interruption grant program dedicated specifically to assisting childcare providers. Our $540 million small business grant program is the largest in the nation. It operates with a laser like focus on helping working families, especially working mothers through this pandemic. Finally, as hard as this pandemic has been on state government’s finances, we know that local governments have suffered mightily by COVID impact to $250 million has been focused on reimbursing local governments outside of cook in the collection. Counties that didn’t receive direct support from the federal government for their COVID-19 expenditures, things like overtime pay for first responders, or PPE, we have now sent out more than $129 million to over 700 local governments with another $30 million still in the pipeline. It’s not too late to claim costs. Through this program, the state of Illinois, and DCEO continue to urge local governments to take advantage of their allocation and to leave no costs on the table. The program will continue accepting applications for eligible expenses through January 31. All of these efforts amount to a unique and historic effort in Illinois, to mitigate this virus has devastating effects on the health and livelihoods of the residents of this state. While there is so much need that is still unmet, and for which we need further support from Congress, Illinois has been a leader in protecting workers and small businesses, with our cares act dollars. I’m proud to lead a state government that is committed to making a difference wherever we can, and with whatever we have. So, thank you. And now I’d like to turn it over to our Director of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, doctor.

Dr. Ezike

Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Friday. It’s hard to believe but this is there’s only one more Friday after this one for this year. As we continue to receive vaccine over the upcoming months, we want to be prepared and identify as many people as possible who can administer the vaccine once it’s actually available. Our traditional health care partners such as hospitals, local health departments, and clinics, of course will be providing vaccinations, but we’re also looking at additional health care workers who can lend a hand to this large vaccination effort. To that end, I have issued a proclamation modifying the scope of practice for both advanced and intermediate emergency medical technicians. In simple terms, this will allow many EMTs to administer both flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine during this pandemic. As we move forward, instead of the current challenge of not having enough vaccine, we hope that there’ll be so much vaccine available that we’ll need more health care workers to actually administer all of the vaccine. As I’ve said, this vaccine is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. But there’s serious distance till we get to the end of the end of the pandemic, but we will get there. Today, 7,377 new Illinoisans were diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 886,805 cases total in Illinois. Since yesterday, we’ve unfortunately received report of 181 individuals who lost their battle with COVID for a total of 15,015 lives lost. In the hospital overnight with COVID were 4,690 individuals and of those, 1,023 were in the intensive care unit, and 589 were on ventilators, and in the last 24 hours more than 112,000 COVID tests were reported for a total of more than 12.2 million tests since the beginning of the year. Please stay safe and healthy. Please help us get to the end of the end. I know you’re tired of me saying it may be tiring in in saying it as well. But it’s the right thing that we all have to do we need to avoid gatherings wear our mask, wash our hands and maintain our distance. Please have a great and safe weekend.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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