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 Thursday, November 19. Dr. z k and I are joined today by Dr. Kemal Singh, an infectious disease specialist with Northshore University Health System, who has worked hands on to care for hospitalized COVID patients since the beginning of this pandemic. Tomorrow will be the first day of our statewide tier three mitigation efforts. Outside of things you have to leave home for like school work, and groceries, we’re asking everyone to stay home as much as you can. This is a temporary thing that we can do to reduce the spread of this virus in our communities. That will give our healthcare workers some relief, and ensure that there will be hospital beds and doctors and nurses available for emergencies. One thing you can do to further assist our hospitals is to donate blood. Fewer people than usual are giving blood during this pandemic. Yet there are still patients in need of transfusions, including those who need surgery, or undergoing cancer treatments have chronic conditions such as sickle cell, or for those who experience accidents or trauma. Blood collection is especially low around the holidays in normal times, and then add a pandemic. On top of that, we need your help. As you all already know here in Illinois, the state has provided contact tracing grants to the 27 sorry 97 local public health departments where they are in charge of their counties and cities contact tracing efforts for COVID-19. The advantage of this localized approach is that it allows neighbors to reach out to neighbors offering localized services and the answers for those who are isolating in their communities.
In that same spirit will be bringing on a network of pandemic health navigators, community based organizations tasked with connecting those who are infected or exposed to covid with critical services and resources, such as meals, medicine, mobility assistance, mental health resources, supports that are especially vital during isolation and quarantine. These navigators will be especially important for our most vulnerable populations. Among other things, these organizations will do everything from assisting the with public benefits applications to supporting health literacy, from combating COVID rumors and myths to promoting every day preventive actions, whatever it takes to reduce the disparity in outcomes shouldered by marginalized communities in this pandemic. I’m proud to announce today that we’re sending $60 million in funding out the door to our two Regional Coordinator organizations.
They in turn will award grants to community based groups who do this work on the ground. These grants will cover the entire state except Cook County and Chicago, both of which directly receive funds from the federal government to manage local programs have their own OSF healthcare system, already a great partner to the state in our COVID-19 telehealth program will coordinate this work in our restore Illinois region one and the Illinois Public Health Association with a special focus on federally qualified health centers will coordinate efforts in regions two through nine. Both organizations will be bringing on numerous local partners to support those who need assistance. They will also help us reach some of our most at risk groups in this pandemic. That includes rural communities, black and brown communities, elderly residents, people at or near the poverty line. Undocumented immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, disconnected youth people with limited English proficiency.
Really anyone who has few existing support mechanisms that could that that could benefit from a little help navigating this pandemic, because nobody should have to go this alone. Through this partnership, these groups will receive direct funds from our regional coordinators for additional hiring. So we’ll be creating jobs while we’re addressing our public health challenges. If you’re a leader of a deeply rooted grassroots organization, outside of cooking county who might be able to take on this work, we have a link on our Department of Public Health website. To submit your information to our regional coordinators, just visit dph.illinois.gov slash COVID-19. And you’ll find on that website the Regional Health Navigator interest form, under the contact tracing subheading, these groups will be part of our Illinois contact tracing collaborative. So they can also assist our local health departments with their contact tracing workload, in times of surge. We continue to see concerning trends statewide in our hospitalization data. But in the most recent two or three days, we’ve seen a hint of leveling in new cases and positivity rates in most of our regions. It’s too early at this point to determine if this stabilizing of the average is a meaningful trend or an anomaly. But we’re glad to at least have a pause in our upward movement.
That doesn’t mean of course, that our work to slow the spread is any less important. These numbers are still highly, excuse me extraordinarily high. And today’s new cases won’t show up in our hospitalization data, which are still trending poorly for a number of days, maybe even a week or more. Let’s take these new these next few weeks rather, and really commit to making a change for our healthcare workers, for our neighbors, for ourselves and for our families. And while we know it’s in part all of these concerns that are driving an interest in testing, I’m proud that here in Illinois, we prepared our testing infrastructure for a surge and are seeing the results of that work. Now, with our testing reaching record heights, Illinois is now averaging a six digit seven day testing average, now above 101,000 tests on average, per day. This comes as today we report our second highest single day of testing ever, at 113,447. Remember, you can’t test your way to safety in a pandemic. But we’re doing everything in our power to expand testing availability to make sure that it’s there for you and your family when you need it. So you can get the answers that you and your family need, and do what it takes to keep others safe too. You can find the nearest site for firstname.lastname@example.org slash testing. Thank you. And I’d like to turn it over to Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike
Good afternoon, everyone. Everyday, we provide the number of tests that were reported in the past 24 hours. And as the governor just mentioned today, more than 113 tests, hundred and 13,000 tests have been reported for a total of almost 9.5 million tests since the beginning of this pandemic. And we’ve been seeing the number of tests steadily increase, which is great. And I want to encourage everyone to continue to pursue testing it is through testing that we actually identify who has the virus and identify individuals who may have been exposed so that they can quarantine and prevent further spread. However, as the governor just mentioned, I have to remind you that if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, you do need to quarantine for the full 14 days, getting a negative test results at day four, or day six, or even day nine does not mean that you no longer have to quarantine for the remaining remaining days to make 14 it can take in some instances up to 14 days for the virus to express itself in an individual and register a positive test.
So even if you got tested every single day, from the date that you were exposed, you could receive a negative test on day 123 all the way up to day 10. But then on day 11 you could test positive then, and that’s the reason that we say that you have to maintain this quarantine. Of course we know that most people will show up positive earlier but we don’t want to take that additional risk. If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive please, quarantine for that full two weeks. I’ve been hearing people talk about wanting to get tested and in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday hoping that if they test negative that means that they’re good to go and okay to gather with friends and family including their elderly relatives. That only works if you haven’t exposed yourself to anyone in the 14 days from when you got tested. To when you meet up with your friends and family.
So when you are around other people, you can be exposed to the virus at any time. So while I do want to encourage people to get tested, just remember a negative test does not get you a free pass. To celebrate Thanksgiving in person. The safest way to celebrate with your loved ones and your cherished elderly relatives is to do it virtually. Today we are reporting 14,612 new cases, and 168 additional deaths that includes 30s individuals in their 30s 40s 50s as well as individuals over 60. This brings the total number of cases in Illinois to 621,383 and the number of deaths to 11,178. Overnight, 6037 individuals were in the hospital with COVID-19 of those 1192 or in the ICU and 587 were on ventilators. My fear is that the number of cases hospitalizations and deaths will spike even further in the weeks after Thanksgiving because people spent that holiday together mixing households.
I don’t want anyone to have to look back and say if only we didn’t have people over for Thanksgiving. Such and such so and so might still be here for New Year’s or Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. 2020 is definitely a year like no other and as such this Thanksgiving holiday has to be celebrated like none other but it’s not forever. I’d like to remind everyone that this is a time limited sacrifice, the more we can reduce the spread of the virus now then when a safe and effective vaccine does come out and it looks like it may be coming soon. the quicker we can then get back to normal. Please let’s do what we know is right. We’re almost there. Celebrate in person with those in your household and virtually with others. And we will look forward to much normal celebrations in the years to come thank you all. And with that, I will turn the podium over to Dr. Singh.
Dr. Kamaljit Singh
Thank you, Governor Pritzker, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, for inviting me to be here today. Again, my name is Dr. Kamaljit Singh. And on behalf of all my colleagues at Northshore University Health System, we’d like to thank you for your leadership in these very difficult times. I’ve prepared a short statement on three important points. The first is health care capacity and health care workers. Let me begin by clearly stating that our hospitals and staff, including hospitals around the state and country are close to a breaking point. At Northshore, we admitted our first COVID patients on March eighth. And since then, we have not stopped. I will step away for a moment and mentioned that this the first cases that we had was a wonderful older couple that had just returned from an overseas holiday with COVID symptoms. as is common with this virus hit the wife recovered and was discharged home well. But her husband got worse at week two, and was eventually put on a breathing machine. He expired One week later, was a traumatic, and a significant realization for me that this is truly a lethal virus, and that we will lose many more patients. Our second search began a month ago today, and we are filling hospital and ICU beds at Northshore and around the state at an exponential speed. Our staff are already exhausted after nine months of a physical, mental and emotionally exhausting battle.
I know at times that numbers can just fly over our heads. But to put it in simple terms, one in five hospitalized hospitalized patients will die of covid 19 infection. We are accumulating new infections at the rate of more than one per second. And every minute fellow American dies of the virus. It reminds me of growing up during the Vietnam War. I could never wrap my brain around the numbers of soldiers lives lost. But the pictures were terribly compelling. Unfortunately, I can’t show you pictures of suffering of our patients. But hopefully you can tell from the tone of my voice that this is a real human tragedy. Our staff have been doing an amazing job to care for each and every patient. But it hasn’t been easy to witness so much illness, and this has truly been for us a 21st century mass casualty event. Secondly, I want to stress we can defeat this virus and flatten the curve. This is the second worldwide SAS coronas coronavirus outbreak that I have been involved in and I can tell you that we can beat this virus in 2000 Three be defeated the first SAS Coronavirus in six months, with nothing more than very aggressive public health measures. Many countries like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong have demonstrated you can control the spread of this COVID virus with strict social distancing, mandatory mass cues, testing in isolation of infected patients, contact tracing and quarantine of exposed individuals.
We need everyone to understand that this battle will be one outside the hospital, not in it. Once you’re in the hospital, the cat is out of the bag, we have to take the fight out in the community, because the only way we can beat this virus is to stop transmission out there and prevent our friends and family members becoming sick and then needing hospitalization. This in turn will also reduce the stress on our healthcare systems and our staff. Our message to you is we stay in the hospital for you, and we need you to stay home for us. Finally, I’d like to say something about mitigation, including both private and public behavior measures. I think I speak for my fellow health care workers and our public health experts that the new tier three mitigation measures that the government has announced, are absolutely needed. But the government can only help modify our public behavior by limiting customer capacity in stores, gyms, closing indoor dining and recommending work from home. These are common sense measures. And they work because we were able to bring down our positivity rate to 2% after the first wave. But we will also need to change our private behavior. Because a lot of transmissions are occurring at birthday parties, weddings and family gatherings. This is especially important as we approach Thanksgiving. And it’s critical that we make our bubble smaller and only celebrate without immediate household members. Instead of focusing on inconveniences, let’s focus on bringing down our case positivity rate to very low single digit. Because once we get to that goal, we can again safely open up businesses and return to a more normal life. That’s the way I would view these restrictions. So let me reiterate, there is no such thing as a casual gathering. Each one has consequences. Thank you again. Let me now turn it back to Governor Pritzker.
Thank you very much. Thanks, Dr. Singh. And before I take questions, every day, I stand up in front of you and try to answer questions as honestly and openly as I can. Some people might not agree with my answers. But I think it’s important that when you have been elected to a position of public trust, that you work every day to earn that trust. I know this is true for many people, but the last eight months have been some of the hardest that I have ever faced. Every morning now, I wake up and I know that what awaits me are mostly terrible choices that come with horrible costs. And I know that every day at 230. I’m going to stand in front of you and to answer for those choices. That is the job of an elected leader.
When I took office almost two years ago, I knew that I needed to do at least one thing and the massive dysfunction of the router years. If that meant working with people that I disagree with Democrats or Republicans, then I was willing to do that. And I have done that. When it comes to the law, I don’t have any ability to predict how this investigation by the US Attorney into speaker Madigan’s actions is going to conclude and I would not even try. I firmly believe that anyone accused of a crime and those who face accusations of wrongdoing are innocent until proven guilty. But that’s not our standard for holding higher office. Instead, here’s what we all know. The pay to play quid pro quo situation outlined in these indictments released last night are unspeakably wrong. Anyone who concludes otherwise is insulting the public. If speaker Madigan wants to continue in a position of enormous public trust, with such a serious ethical cloud hanging over his head, then he has to at the very least, be willing to stand in front of the press and the people and answer every last question to their set. satisfaction, written statements and dodged investigatory hearings are not going to cut it.
If the speaker cannot commit to that level of transparency, then the time has come for him to resign as speaker. We are at an incredibly difficult moment in our state. We are all overwhelmed with decisions of life and death and economic distress. The people of Illinois do not deserve a political circus on top of that. I’ve maintained from the beginning that legislators have a right to make their own decisions about who leads them. And I continue to feel that way. These legislators alone hold the unique power to elect the Illinois speaker. And I trust that they will think long and hard about the duties that they owe to the people that we all work for.