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!
Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the COVID-19 update for Wednesday, December 9. I’m joined today by Dr. Rajiv j shah a physician, former administrator at the United States Agency for International Development and now, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Dr. Shah and the Rockefeller Foundation brought together a bipartisan coalition of governors and public health teams to collaborate on overcoming some of the biggest testing challenges that states were facing because of the absence of federal coordination. Throughout this pandemic, Rockefeller has been an important convener of public health officials, and elected leaders to exchange best practices for protecting the health of their communities. They have truly been a force for good on a national scale during this crisis. And this work has been an immense help to us in Illinois, as we have sought to more effectively and efficiently scale our testing infrastructure to meet the needs of all of our residents. And I’ll introduce Dr. Shah in just a few moments.
As just one example of the work that they’ve done. I’ve spoken from this podium many times about the binax. Now rapid antigen tests developed by Abbott, an Illinois company, the federal government bought binax now tests in bulk and delivered them to the states to use at their design. In the absence of federal government leadership on their efficacy, the Rockefeller coalition went to work and states were able to share what they learned. Massachusetts, for example, quickly launched a detailed assessment of the accuracy of these tests, and found a minimal rate of false positives. And by passing that information along quickly, every state didn’t have to try and replicate the same work, saving taxpayer dollars and improving testing access across the nation. Thanks to that data, as well as our own, we here in Illinois have had great success in our antigen test implementation. Illinois has been a leader in deploying these tests to local health departments, hospitals, federally qualified health centers, government agencies, first responders, school pilot programs, and long term care facilities, among other uses. strategies that we have shared with other states in the coalition as they put their own plans together.
We are now averaging over 10,000 antigen tests per day, today hitting a new record of more than 15,000. And we continue to roll this program out in more appropriate settings for rapid tests. As I announced in November, Illinois met our ambitious goal of reporting 100,000 tests in a day. And we’ve surpassed this multiple times over statewide demand for tests slowed down a bit during the Thanksgiving weekend, and is now ramping back up. But we continue to grow our capacity for testing. Our current seven day rolling average for tests per day is 96,000. As of this morning, even with all the well deserved excitement around a vaccine right now, it will be months before vaccines are available to the general public. So it’s incredibly important that we do everything in our power to temper the spread of this virus. In the coming weeks and months. We all want as many people alive and healthy as possible when we get there. Together with governors of both parties, I have called for a national testing strategy. Since the very early days of this pandemic.
Such a comprehensive effort would make a tangible difference in our pandemic response. Right now. I’ve conveyed to the presidential transition, our hope to see a thorough testing expansion plan at the very start of the new administration. And as the best testing state between the coasts, Illinois will share what we’ve learned on what works and what doesn’t. So even as we look ahead to 2021 here in Illinois, we’re not taking our foot off the gas in our efforts to ramp up testing even further, increasing our ability to identify positive cases quickly so that we can eliminate community spread and stop further outbreaks in their tracks. That work has been made so much better and easier. By the coalition put together by the Rockefeller Foundation. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to Rockefellers esteemed leader, Dr. Rajiv J. Shah.
Dr. Rajiv J. Shah
Thank you, Governor Pritzker. I appreciate your kind introduction and very helpful opening comments. I want to thank you in particular for your leadership, of course in Illinois, but also on behalf of the entire country.
You are right, that testing is really the only way out of the false choice between shutting everything down and and suffering widespread loss of life and the leadership that you’ve shown that your colleagues across the state of Illinois have shown has really helped set a path forward for the country to implement a strategy on testing that makes fast, frequent testing far more accessible and ubiquitous to those who desperately need it in order to go to school or to protect themselves doing essential and often frontline healthcare service work. In particular, that the Illinois joining the state testing Alliance, the state and territory testing Alliance has been extraordinarily important.
There are now 22 states including Illinois that on a bipartisan basis, have come together to say that we should have common protocols, share best practices, understand which tasks can be deployed at what frequency and come together to do pooled procurement, thus lowering the price of each unit of testing supplies acquired, and increasing both volumes and supply as industry sees the demand from states in aggregate, grow and remain persistent through this year, and certainly nearly all of 2021 This has been an important step forward for the Rockefeller Foundation with in partnership with states. And whether it’s the antigen test that, in fact is more rapid and offers a quick turnaround, or doing our best to get PCR based testing. Back with a high degree of turnaround time, and rapidity. Either strategy can work. But we’ve needed leaders around the country to sort of show and pave the way. And I’d like to make two further comments. First, gentlemen, Martin Burke, I want to thank you, I know Illinois for lending his intellect and effort to the nation. But what the University of Illinois has done with the shield testing program. It has demonstrated to America that with fast, frequent and accurate testing, you can actually run educational institutions, and keep the testing prevalence rate for students and faculty significantly below the background community rate.
We at the Rockefeller Foundation have supported dozens of pilot activities around the country in K through 12, education, and some in universities, all of which validate that insight. And it’s why we’ve been part of an effort along with Martin to bring together leaders around the country to use testing as a strategy to more actively reopen K through 12 schools and avoid some of the deep and significant costs in terms of loss of learning, and tragic outcomes for children who are forced to be in a learn at home environment, often without the resources to be successful.
The final point I’ll just make is what you also said governor, which is the vaccine is something we all look forward to, we know that that is going to be critical. And the Rockefeller Foundation is helping partners across the country have an aggressive and effective and community based trust based rollout of the vaccine as it becomes available. That said, it is very clear to us that throughout 2021, and certainly for the first half of next year, if schools are to be open if healthcare workers are to be safe, if certain essential businesses are to operate in a high background, community spread environment, testing will be more important than ever. And so the confidence that the state Alliance is providing to industry, the partnerships that Illinois has been able to be a part of. And the vision that we’ve all laid out together of using fast frequent testing as a screening tool to enable essential services to go forward remains America’s best strategy to get kids in school to protect health care workers and to keep essential workers on in their jobs but in their job safely as we get through this very difficult time. Thank you and I look forward to taking questions and turn it back over to you governor. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Dr. Shawn. I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike for today’s medical update.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike
Good afternoon, everyone Happy Wednesday. The latest numbers we have 1256 newly diagnosed individuals with COVID-19 for a total of 812,430 individuals diagnosed with COVID. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have received notification of 179 Illinoisans, in the past 24 hours that have lost their battle with COVID for a total of 13,666 individuals lost overnight 5284 people reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. And of those 1176 individuals were on ventilators and were in the ICU pardon me and 647 were on ventilators. In the last 24 hours, almost 93,000 tests have been reported for a total of 11 point 3 million tests since the beginning of this pandemic, I anticipate we will see an increase in the people who want to get tested as they prepare for the holidays. But remember, unless you quarantine completely after being tested, you could get infected at any time between that test and your intended visit. So the negative test does not give you quote an all clear forever and ever to gather with friends and family.
Of course, I have to say at the safest way to enjoy the upcoming holidays would still be to be virtual, we can gather and celebrate with people in our household people who we already live with. But if we don’t normally live with our mom’s car, mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews nieces on a daily basis, then it’s best not to mix those households for the upcoming holidays. I’ve heard people talk about how their family is not going to skip Auntie Grace’s mac and cheese or someone’s famous pecan pie. But I would say that you need to not skip it. But But postpone it. I have missed some events, graduations wedding anniversaries, and I’m fully planning to celebrate those it just is still upcoming. So I urge people to postpone the normal ways that you’re used to celebrating. We are advising people to postpone travel during the holidays. It’s not the message I want to deliver. But it is what’s responsible and will keep everyone safest. Let’s think about this, if we’ve made it this far in the pandemic, with the finish line starting to come into sight you deserve for you and your family and your friends to make it all the way to the other side. So it’s we’ve come too far to turn back now. And I know that there are people who will hear this and say, Nope, I’m still gonna celebrate in person. And I still want to offer you something that you can do to mitigate the risk, it won’t, it won’t erase it. But maybe this can help decrease the risk. And so that would include limiting the number of people that you are gathering with and paying a special attention to the risk of the people that you want to associate with understanding that people with the comorbid conditions and and more advanced ages are at higher risk.
When thinking about the number of people that will gather take into consideration the amount of space that will be available for the gathering and the people to try to stay six feet apart at all times. As shorter gathering rather than a longer gathering would obviously pretend a smaller risk gatherings that lasts long, a long time obviously give more opportunities for that air swapping and the potential for transmitting the virus. Of course, you have to wear a mask even if it’s indoors. Yes, they’re your family. Yes, you want to hug and talk to people without a mask. But that’s exactly how the virus spreads. Would it kill you to wear a mask indoors? No, it won’t, but not wearing one could kill someone. Roughly half of all transmission occurs from people who are asymptomatic. That means they’re not manifesting any type of symptom. So even if you think you are healthy and you feel well, you still could be spreading the virus. If at all possible. Move the gathering outdoors. If being outside is not an option, then try to increase the ventilation indoors if you can open doors open windows. Again, I strongly encourage everyone to celebrate virtually I don’t want the message To not be clear, I want you to call or video chat as many of you did at Thanksgiving, share gifts by leaving them at the door or I heard this great idea of virtually identifying charities with which you will use the money for gifts and give it to nonprofits or charities that are doing great work that you support. There is still time to change your holiday plans. If you haven’t made them I hope you will take this to heart. Please let’s give the gift of life. Let’s give the gift of health this holiday season. Again we’ve come too far to give it up now. Thank you.