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Pritzker’s Daily COVID-19 Briefing Full Transcript And Audio — Nov. 17, 2020

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is returning to his 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!


Governor Pritzker 

Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the COVID-19 update for Tuesday, November the 17th. It’s been eight months since March 9 when I first declared the state of emergency in Illinois, to address the covid 19 pandemic. I knew then, that we were facing down a kind of challenge that we had never seen before. But even so very few of us had any idea of just how much our lives would be disrupted. In the days, weeks and months ahead. In the spring, Illinoisans faced some of the most difficult months of their lives, people began to get sick, others lost their jobs. health care workers logged monumentally long, terrifying hours, caring for their patients, office workers shifted to online grocery store staff stocked and restock shelves all night long. And restaurants, bars, concert venues, movie theaters began to face incredible hardship, even with federal stimulus. For many of those hurt worst by the pandemic, that financial challenges of paying your bills and staying above water still linger. And across Illinois, hundreds and then thousands lost their lives.

We flattened the curve in about six weeks and brought down the infection rate. So much so that we avoided the second wave that hit many parts of the nation during the summer. But as fall approached, we began to see an upsurge. And now we are seeing a covid storm that has set us on a course to a new wave of the virus that we all hoped wouldn’t come. But if you look at our new trajectories of COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases and deaths, it’s clear that it’s here. There were predictions that we would have a fall resurgence. That’s worse than the last spring’s just like the 1918 flu pandemic. And those predictions turned out to be accurate. That’s true across the Midwest right now from the Dakotas and Iowa, which are seeing unprecedented spread to Michigan and Minnesota facing down similar resurgences. to Illinois, our region is once again in the throes of the worst of this coronavirus pandemic. But here’s what’s different from last spring. By our experience, and by the good work of our scientists and doctors, we have a greater understanding of how to protect ourselves from this virus.

We have masks and we know they work. We know that keeping six feet of distance helps. We know gathering in our home with people who aren’t close family members is very risky. We know that large gatherings, especially when people are not wearing masks can be very dangerous. And there’s hope on the horizon, which became more real as of yesterday with the preliminary reports about success of a second potentially effective vaccine candidate. But between where we are now and that hopeful horizon is an enormous challenge that we must endure. Because it may be months before we see mass distribution of an effective vaccine. Right now we’re witnessing exponential growth in the number of people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 statewide. What that means is that while linear growth is when the number of new patients in the hospital grows by the same number, day over day or week over week, exponential growth is when daily or weekly percentage growth is constant or increasing. That’s what we’re seeing now here in Illinois. Think of exponential growth like a snowball, rolling downhill, picking up speed and gaining in size. as it rolls it gets larger and faster until it becomes something so big that it takes extraordinary effort to slow or stop it. Increases in cases and hospitalizations that used to take weeks are now happening in days.

Over the last month the rate of growth in COVID patients in the hospital has grown from a 9% increase between September 22 and October 6 to a 69% increase between November 3 and November 17. This trajectory indicates that ICU and non ICU hospitalized occupancy by COVID-19 patients could reach as much as five times our previous records from the spring, five times. All of our modeling groups which collaborate with idph to evaluate our forward looking outcomes in the covid 19 pandemic agree that without additional mitigations this epidemic from now through September will continue to escalate, as pictured here. These are the paths most likely to occur if current trends hold without additional intervention. On each of these plots, the gray shaded area indicates a zone in which the direction of the pandemic here in Illinois is particularly uncertain, meaning we can alter our trajectory significantly if we take real action, both on the individual and policy level right now.

Models projected without additional mitigations daily COVID-19 deaths May at least match the previous spring wave and could even rise up to four to five times that level. a risk that grows as hospitals become increasingly filled by more patients. And as more of our heroic healthcare workers get sick, leading to staffing shortages. Without new interventions, projections show between 17,040 5000 additional deaths in Illinois, between now and march 1 of 2021. Assuming hospitals are able to continue providing the optimal level of care, that is one to four times what has been experienced between the beginning of the pandemic. And today. We can’t let that happen. We will continue to see a rise in both hospitalizations and deaths from covid 19. Four weeks ahead, because of the infections that have already happened. But we can change our longer term outcome. We can save potentially thousands of lives in the next few months. If we make changes right now, to stop this in its tracks. In other words, this new wave of the virus brought on by the National COVID storm cannot be addressed properly.

With the tier one or tier two resurgence mitigation plan that was designed to suppress infections regionally that were growing in a linear fashion, we must once again work together on a statewide basis to bend the curve. So starting Friday, all of Illinois is moving to tier three, resurgence mitigations. This is not a stay at home order. But the best way for us to avoid a stay at home order is to stay home. We are asking you to choose zoom instead of packing people in a room for Thanksgiving. Make alterations to your routines now, so that we can be together later. The virus thrives when we gather indoors without masks with people that we don’t normally live with. And you’ll see these tier three mitigations reflect this reality to slow the spread and until we can begin to bring down the infection rate. You should not attend dinners, events, gatherings or meetings beyond your own household. This is a temporary set of rules that are designed by doctors to keep you safe.

To be very clear, we are relying on you here. Nobody will go door to door to check on you. But we’re asking people to hold themselves and each other accountable. The more we can avoid gatherings now especially indoors with the people that we don’t already live with, the more likely we are to be able to celebrate the December holidays with less risk to our loved ones and ourselves. tier three boils down to this if you don’t need to do it. Don’t that is especially true when it comes to gathering with people outside your household. Because the terrible truth is that getting together with people in this way is exactly how the virus spreads. To stop the spread and preserve our December holidays. All of us need to do more than just wear our masks now.

Though masks are mandatory throughout the state of Illinois. The simple fact is that COVID-19 is spreading quickly and widely. Our hospitals are beginning to experience real estate Strain and at the current infection rate, they will be overwhelmed. We must not let that happen. So whenever possible, we need you, we want you to stay home. I’m hopeful that by limiting our in person interactions now, we will succeed at avoiding a stay at home order, like what we had last spring, when the choice between saving lives and saving livelihoods was even more stark. tier three may allow us to do both similar to new restrictions announced over the last few days in Michigan and California and Washington. tier three is Illinois effort to avoid a stay at home order. Meanwhile, no matter what we do, there will be unnecessary economic pain.

The virus rages on while Senate Republicans in Washington continue to block additional aid that families and healthcare institutions and small restaurants and nonprofits and cities and states in every corner of our nation desperately need. Their inaction is unnecessarily turning a pandemic into a twin demick. While states with and without mitigations are experiencing a new wave of the virus.

The economy is on the verge of taking another step downward, potentially costing millions more jobs across the United States and all because of the US Senate’s refusal to push genuine, meaningful significant stimulus across the finish line. This will go down as a travesty in American history. Because many people in this country cannot sustain one more blow. While we wait for Washington to hear the pleas of American families we must keep each other safe from this disease. as painful as it is we must hold the line. Avoid another stay at home order. Battle through these next few months. Give our hospitals some breathing room and save thousands of lives until we can get to the other side of this difficult time. Our single best weapon in the weeks ahead is all of you, and the individual and collective actions that we take as a state to get through this, those will really matter.

As always, these mitigations are based on the latest science and data focused on what will keep people safe. You’ll notice that retail stores as well as personal services where you can keep your mask on will remain open at limited capacities. gyms can allow individuals to schedule workouts as long as they wear masks throughout schools and daycares can choose to remain open. But with the precautions set out previously, by idph nisp. We continue to rely on local school boards to determine the right approach here.

We’ve provided extensive idph attendance to schools, and I urge local officials to carefully consider that as well as the unique needs of their students and their communities. So far, most public schools have chosen elearning and hybrid learning solutions and daycares continued to operate relatively safely. Safety and Health is my primary concern. And with tier three, the doctors have struck a careful balance based upon what the data and studies show about the risk of contracting the virus in various settings. Understanding sorry, unfortunately, no matter what we do to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of this virus, it will require some sacrifice. These mitigations pause a number of indoor activities where the science shows us this virus can most easily spread. museums, theaters, and casinos will need to temporarily close indoor recreational activities including youth club and adult sports.

We’ll need to take a pause until we can get our spread under control. All workplaces that have remote capabilities should have their employees work remotely. If you are able to work from home, we need you to do so. For businesses affected by the virus. Please apply for the business interruption grants that we created to help you through these times.

They can be applied for on the DC EO website@dceo.illinois.gov. Folks, this is not a time to be out and about. Stay home as much as possible whatever your job or school will allow. While we fight this latest COVID storm, our guiding principle about interactions outside your family bubble remains this, if you don’t need to do it, don’t do it. I know that this virus is taking its toll in so many ways. We all want this to be over. We want to fast forward to a world where masks are once again, things that only doctors were where grandparents can hug their grandchildren where Thanksgiving tables are full of loved ones and friends and neighbors. And where handshakes don’t add fuel to the fire of a worldwide pandemic.

But I know with my whole heart that we will get through this, a vaccine is coming. We just have to keep going a little bit longer. We have to keep going so that when we get to the other side of this pandemic, we will have done everything we can to get everyone there with us safely. So thank you. And with that, I’d like to turn it over to our Director of the Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike, doctor.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike 

Good afternoon. Well, we anticipated it. And we warned about it. And we all knew it was coming. The second wave is now here. But it’s not only here, it’s more dire than what we saw in the spring to slow the spread of the virus. And to help prevent more cases, more hospitalizations, more deaths. More mitigation measures are being implemented. The sciences there and it’s pretty simple. If you’re not in the physical presence of other people, the virus can spread to someone else. It can and will spread at a party, it can and will spread at a dining establishment it can and will spread at a large Thanksgiving gathering. It can and will spread at a wedding. And it can and will and has spread at funerals. It’s like It’s like dominoes. If you take one or two out of the line, the dominoes stop falling because there’s not something to hit. We’ve got to take things out of the line. So there’s not something that nobody takes this lightly. No one is ignorant to the acute difficulties that so many people and industries will face. But we are really hoping that these additional mitigations will do the trick. We were hoping not even to get here. But as the numbers climb, we cannot in good conscience. Let our behaviors and activities go unchecked.

Today we are reporting 12,601 new cases. For a total of 597,849 cases in Illinois. We’ve received report of 97 additional lives lost for a total of 10,875 deaths. Overnight 5887 people were in the hospital with COVID-19. That is 1000 more than we had at our peak in the spring. Of those 5887 1158 patients were in the ICU and 545 patients who are on ventilators. in hospitals throughout the state. One out of every four patients has covid and that number is only going to grow. So if those covid numbers grow, and flu hospitalizations will grow. Where will someone go with chest pain? Where will they go if they acutely notice facial droop after a car accident, we have to be able to take care of all of the people of Illinois and have the hospital capacity to do so. In the last 24 hours. 94,205 tests were reported for a total of more than 9.2 5 million tests in Illinois.

People are going to be frustrated. People are going to be upset. People are going to be downright angry. Right now this virus has backed us into a corner and we are left making insanely difficult and weighty decisions. We all want to get back to normal but we can’t get there just yet. I urge people to turn their frustration and their anger into something positive. Instead of trying to buck the mitigations can we all just follow them acknowledging that these are what are needed to get back to some semblance of normal.

If we can look out just a little bit further, we are starting to see the finish line. There’s definitely still lots of hills and hurdles ahead of us. And the race is not over. But we’re going to get there if we keep pushing. Let’s push back on the covid fatigue. We need to stay home as much as we can and break the cycle of transmission. Implementing additional mitigations was not an easy decision and was not entered into lightly. But speaking as a health professional as a public health professional. As your Director of Public Health.

My job is to protect the health and wellness of the people of Illinois. And I’m supposed to protect that through prevention and through the control of this disease. We have tried to do it one way and it’s not been enough. We all see that it’s not working and that we’re going in the wrong direction and headed over a steep cliff. Please stay at home. Please wear your mask we can get there. Thank you.

Governor Pritzker 

Before I take questions today, excuse me. Before I take questions today I want to discuss my personal plans for the Thanksgiving holidays. I think you all know that I try very hard to keep my high school aged children out of the spotlight. They were not elected to anything. They did not choose this public life and I have a reasonable expectation that their privacy You will be protected. I was taken aback by yesterday’s question about my family’s holiday plans, in part because my wife and I were in the process of making the very hard decision that we may need to celebrate Thanksgiving apart from one another, for the first time ever, and it was weighing heavily on my mind.

I will be celebrating Thanksgiving in Chicago with our son. Our state is at a crisis point when it comes to the COVID pandemic. And as leader, I believe that the situation is simply too grave for me to be elsewhere. My wife and daughter are in Florida, and they will remain there indefinitely. Let me tell you why. Last week, last week, my daughter came under attack in an attempt to have some political effect on me. A parody Twitter account, posted a picture of a group of individuals eating outside a Chicago restaurant, supposedly breaking the COVID rules the city put in place. And the person posting the photo claimed one of the people in it was my daughter. That was a lie. It wasn’t her. But the picture falsely identifying her, started making the rounds on social media helped along by the trolls who permeate these social media platforms. My office put out a statement making clear this wasn’t my daughter. But that didn’t stop republican elected officials. A network of propaganda publications in the state, and some radio shock jocks from telling people that the picture was of my daughter, despite knowing that this was a lie, which lent permission to a slew of strangers, who sent hateful threatening messages to my daughter over the subsequent few days.

If that wasn’t bad enough, then a well known lawyer who cares more about headlines than winning his cases, posted a bounty on his Facebook page, offering money to harass my family at Thanksgiving, and the actual cash bounty, including my kids, harassing them, my high school aged kids. Put yourself in the shoes of a high school girl who is being weaponized against her father, by his political opponents, weaponized with lies, Put yourself in my shoes. We have threats that stream into my office daily, while we have watched the kidnapping plot against the Michigan governor unfold just a state away. I’m the governor, I was elected to this job.

And while I don’t think it should come with a fear for my health and safety, I accept that sometimes it does. I’m an adult. And I can handle people throwing my face up on anti semitic picket signs likening me to Hitler. This kind of vitriol is apparently what I have to deal with, to keep the state and its people safe. But my kids, my kids are off limits among elected officials and people in positions of responsibility. That didn’t use to happen. There was a time in American politics when the rule was sacrosanct. Kids are off limits. This should not be controversial. So I’m appealing to our collective sense of decency, and our fundamental understanding of right and wrong, to keep my child out of political disagreements. And to understand that I’m going to fight like hell to protect her privacy. I ask that you all respect that privacy.

I’m willing to make the hard decisions that sometimes brings on vitriol from political opponents, but my children shouldn’t have to come under attack. Just like all of you, I want to be with my family for the holidays. And just like all of you, because of COVID My family is having to make sacrifices to stay safe. This is not a political fight. This is a fight to save people’s lives. Let’s remember that as we enter the holiday season.

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