Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced he will extend the state's stay-at-home order until the end of April as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Read Pritzker's full statement below as provided by the governor's office.
Good afternoon. I’m joined again today by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and by Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. We also have two special guests with us, Brad Cole, Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League and Tim Drea, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO.
To the thousands of people across the state who have been joining us every day via livestream – welcome back. And to anyone joining for the first time, thank you for your desire to get factual information on what’s happening here in Illinois. To our reporters – thank you for your commitment to truth and accuracy.
Folks: I know this journey is an extraordinarily difficult one – personally, financially, emotionally. I know that when I signed our Disaster Proclamation on March 9th, when restaurants and bars closed on March 16th, when schools suspended on-site learning on March 17th, when the Stay at Home order took effect on March 21st – each step we have been forced to take by this pandemic has made things more challenging for our residents. The cascading consequences of these steps weigh on me every minute of every day.
But as I’ve said since the beginning, my priority through each and every one of these decisions has been – and continues to be – saving as many people’s lives as possible. That’s the one goal I will put above all others, every time.
Most critically, I have let the science guide our decisions. I’ve relied upon the top medical experts, scientists, public health researchers, epidemiologists, mathematicians and modelers, from the greatest institutions in the world like University of Illinois, Northwestern, University of Chicago, SIU, and others whose guidance on infection rates and potential mortalities and protective measures is second to none.
It is based upon that advice that tomorrow, I will be signing an Executive Order to extend Illinois’ Disaster Proclamation, Stay Home order, and suspension of on-site learning at schools through the end of the month of April.
If we can end these orders earlier, I’ll be the first to tell you when we can start to make strides toward normal again.
But that time is not today, and it’s not April 7th. Illinois has one of the strongest public health systems in the nation – but even so, we aren’t immune to this virus’ ability to push our existing capacity beyond its limits. We need to maintain our course and keep working to flatten the curve.
Here’s what we know: As of March 30, our preliminary reports from hospitals statewide show just 41 percent of our adult ICU beds are “empty” – staffed and ready for immediate patient use, a two percentage point decrease from the moment-in-time numbers I ran you through last week. And 68% of our ventilators are available statewide – a four percentage point drop in a week. That doesn’t mean every hospital has that availability, but collectively that’s what we have across the state.
Statewide, about 35 percent of our total ICU beds are now occupied by COVID patients and about 24 percent of our total vents are occupied by COVID patients. We are still within our capacity, and we are working every day to acquire new vents or convert alternate use vents to increase that capacity – but from all the models that we’ve seen, our greatest risk of hitting capacity isn’t now, but weeks from now. This virus’ spread is growing – so are its risks. We must not let up.
I’ll remind everyone that these interventions don’t work if they’re piecemeal across the state. It was only a few weeks back when we had just a handful of cases all in one county. That’s up to 5994 across 54 counties – and we know that there are even more people out there who have contracted COVID-19 and already recovered without realizing it, or recovered at home and never qualified for a test. That’s true in all 50 states – and that’s the price we all will continue to pay from the lack of early, robust national testing. So we have to stick to the knowledge we have: no community is immune.
To that point, I want to discuss our efforts to keep our Department of Corrections facilities as safe and socially distanced as possible to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, DOC is at its smallest population since 1995, with 36,944 individuals. That’s 1,069 fewer prisoners than on February 1. On March 14th, early in the process of my issuing executive orders addressing COVID-19, to reduce the spread of the virus DOC suspended all visits, moved all facilities to administrative quarantine, and ensured access to hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to all staff and incarcerated individuals. IEMA and IDPH have made multiple deliveries of PPE to the DOC, totaling over 160,000 N95 masks, over 200,000 surgical masks, and tens of thousands of gloves, and DOC is sending an additional shipment to Stateville today.
DOC has been reviewing the case files of as many low risk offenders as possible for early release during this crisis, with nearly 300 more released as of 1pm today. This has included some of our female inmates who are pregnant or were in our women and babies program, as well as low level offenders at the end of their sentences. All have been thoroughly vetted to make sure there are no histories of violence and particularly domestic violence, and all had homes to return to. I should note that places to reside for exiting offenders are one of our greatest challenges: we need to ensure that each person released in this manner has a place to return to, and those arrangements are more difficult for exiting offenders during these challenging times.
We are working hard to balance the need to free up as much space in our prisons as possible with making sure we are not releasing those who may pose a risk to their communities. Every step we take with regards to our prison population needs to solve an existing problem – not create a new one.
I signed an executive order to suspend the daily flow of convicted transfers from county jails to IDOC facilities, and my office is working with the Department of Corrections to review the histories of all of our inmates to prioritize the release of older and vulnerable residents while ensuring public safety. Under the order, the director still has discretion to accept transfers from county jails when necessary and will exercise that discretion.
Tragically, we have lost one patient to COVID-19 at Stateville, the maximum-security prison closest to the Chicago area, with 32 total positive cases among those in custody and more results pending. We have 18 staff members who have tested positive who are employed at various DOC facilities. The DOC is working diligently to prevent further spread, by requiring all staff on duty to wear PPE and by opening parts of the facility that were closed to allow for further social distancing.
We are using every mechanism available to us to prevent and contain the virus’ spread in our DOC facilities, including standing up temporary facilities for an on-site medical mission with our National Guard. But I want to be clear - despite these measures, any and every one of our DOC residents who falls seriously ill with COVID-19 will receive all available medical assistance to get through it, including an ICU bed and a ventilator if necessary. An incarcerated person is a person, and my administration will not be in the business of claiming one life is worth more than another.
I want to say to the local hospitals near our prison facilities: we will do all that we can to ensure any patients receive the best care that we can provide, and we will work with local departments of public health to get you all the equipment and support we can. But hospitals that refuse to take on residents of the Department of Corrections will be named. And those that refuse to operate in accordance to their oath can and will be compelled to do so under the law. We are asking everyone during this extraordinarily difficult time to do their part to keep residents – all residents – of Illinois safe.
We inherited a prison system that has suffered from overcrowding after decades of “tough on crime” policies, focusing on punishment without attention to rehabilitation. Democrats and Republicans agree on this and have worked together to make real changes. While we have prioritized support services for the men and women in our care, we are still operating in facilities that were not built to support these efforts. When we get through the immediate crisis, we all need to have a real conversation about criminal justice reform and the status and condition of our state prisons.
But I’ll be frank with you, we still don’t know exactly when the immediate crisis will pass. I know this continues to be an extraordinarily difficult time for families across our state, especially for our workers. I have directed my Governor’s Office staff and agency directors to do everything in our power to help our residents who are hurting. We’ve directed tens of millions of dollars to support our small businesses in impacted industries and offered sales tax payment delays where we can; we’ve expanded support for individuals through the ban of residential evictions, a delayed income tax filing deadline, increased unemployment eligibility, and worked to expand our Medicaid and SNAP programs. There are countless unseen people in state government who are working behind the scenes day and night, seven days a week, to find every possible mechanism to support our working families – and I promise you we will not stop until this passes.
Lastly, I want to talk about what this extension means for our students. First and foremost, I want to recognize the creativity of the Illinois State Board of Education and the superintendents and school districts across the state for the remarkable agility they have demonstrated, providing learning opportunities, meals, connection and stability throughout this crisis.
Under this extended order, schools will transition from Act of God Days to Remote Learning Days. All of these days count toward the school year, and absolutely no days need to be made up.
Each district is working with ISBE to create and implement a Remote Learning Plan to ensure all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, receive instructional materials and can communicate with their teachers.
Remote learning will look different for every district and maybe even for every school. School districts will create plans based on their local resources and needs.
ISBE recommends any grades that schools give during this time be used as feedback and not as an instrument for compliance. Students are going through a situation over which they have no control. Our first response must be empathy.
I want to end with a message for our students, who I know never envisioned a pandemic derailing their spring semester – believe me, as a parent of two teenagers, you’re not the only one.
I won’t try and tell you that texting and calling each other is the same as hanging out in the hallways or in the lunchroom. I won’t try and tell you that a Zoom prom is the same as a real prom. I won’t try and tell you not to be sad about the lost goals and plans you had for March and April – it’s okay to be sad. And if you do feel sad, or frustrated, or angry – whatever you feel – please: let yourself feel that way. Don’t beat yourself up over being human. And if you are experiencing overwhelming anxiety or you have a friend who is and need someone to talk to, there are resources available to you by phone and online through both ISBE and our Department of Human Services.
But I also want to say: once you’re ready, take a look around. Take in the incredibly unique moment that you’re living in. Yes, it’s scary and uncertain and difficult. But if you’re looking for a lesson in the fundamental goodness of your community – it’s there.
Take a look at the districts across the state that have taken it upon themselves to support our healthcare workers, like Tinley Park High School’s science department delivering goggles to Advocate Health’s Christ Medical Center, or Decatur Public Schools donating over two hundred iPads to promote contactless communication at area hospitals. Maybe those are your teachers and administrators, or maybe your school is one of the many others that donated. Even if it’s not – I bet people in your school are finding new ways to help. Be one of those people.
Or look at Michael Arundel – an Orland Park native home from college while classes are out at the University of Alabama, where he’s studying to go to medical school someday. He came home and saw a need where his elderly relatives and neighbors were afraid to go to the grocery store – so he filled that need by creating Leave It To Us, his free service to go grocery shopping for senior citizens. Orders took off, and his network of mostly college-aged volunteers is now launching service in five other states nationwide. Michael, thank you for the movement you’ve started. All of Illinois is proud of you. And I’ll encourage elderly Chicagoland residents – as well as healthy young people across the state looking to join Michael and start a local branch of their own – to visit his website, CovidSeniorShoppers.com.
And most of all, look at the people who make up our health care workforce. Our doctors, our physicians assistants, our nurses, our nurse practitioners, yes, but also our hospital social workers, EMTs, pharmacists, ER technicians, registration staffers, sanitation services, and the food service workers who keep patients fed. Maybe you call one of those people a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a friend. Maybe someday, that’ll be you. I can tell you that they didn’t join this profession looking to fight a pandemic. They wanted to help people, to live a life of service. And they’re doing that still, even though they share the fear and uncertainty that we all do.
No, it’s not the school year you bargained for, and I’m sorry for that. But amidst these dire circumstances, I want you to know there’s plenty of people to learn from. There’s plenty of reason to hope. And if all else fails, I’ve heard the “Where’s Lightfoot” meme page is good for a laugh.