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Capitol Recap: Residents ordered to stay home, with exceptions, amid outbreak

By Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD - Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday, March 20, issued a "Stay at Home" order throughout Illinois, directing all residents to stay home except to conduct essential business, and all non-essential businesses to stop operations.

The order, which took effect at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 21, will extend at least through Tuesday, April 7. It was the latest and most sweeping step the Pritzker administration has taken to slow the spread of the highly-contagious novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, but it does allow several exemptions.

"We have looked closely at the trajectory of this virus in countries like Italy and China. Left unchecked, cases in Illinois will rise rapidly," Pritzker said during his daily briefing in Chicago. "Hospital systems will be overwhelmed. Protective equipment will become scarce, and we will not have enough health care workers or hospital beds or ventilators for the overwhelming influx of sick patients."

Illinois on Thursday, March 26, saw its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, at 673, and deaths, at seven. Cases have been reported in 37 counties, but health officials say everyone should assume the virus is in circulation where they live.

The newly deceased are a man in his 50s, two men and two women in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s. The Illinois Department of Public Health said five of the victims were from Cook County, one from McHenry County and one from Will County. Nearly nine in 10 of the state's dead have been 60 or older.

Illinois has now recorded 2,538 cases and 26 deaths directly related to COVID-19. More than 16,000 people have been tested. Thursday was the state's 19th consecutive day of an increase in reported cases and its eight straight day with new deaths as Illinois continues to climb the curve to a peak in both categories.

Though Illinois is "in a period of exponential growth" in cases, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said prevention measures like social distancing, school closures and the stay-at-home order have allowed the state to be "slightly under" initial forecasts and predictions.

Friday's executive order supersedes a previous executive order that prohibited gatherings of 50 people or more. Prohibited activities include all public gatherings of any number of people outside of a single residence and all gatherings of 10 or more people, unless specifically exempted by the order.

The order also temporarily shutters amusement parks, carnivals, water parks, aquariums, zoos, museums, arcades, fairs, children's play centers, playgrounds, funplexes, theme parks, bowling alleys, movie and other theaters, concert and music halls, country clubs and social clubs.

State and local law enforcement officials will have authority to enforce the order. In most cases, Pritzker said, that would involve officers telling people to disburse and go back home. If they don't, he said, they could be cited for disorderly conduct or other municipal offenses.

However, while the order is in effect, people will be allowed to leave their home for a wide range of other ordinary functions such as seeking medical attention and to acquire necessary supplies and services, including groceries, medicines and supplies that enable them to work from home.

They also will be allowed to leave home for outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, running or walking their dog, provided they maintain at least a six-foot distance from others.

People also may leave their home to take care of others and to perform certain types of work providing essential products and services at essential businesses and operations.

Essential activities include health care and public health operations, including veterinary care and the manufacturing and distribution of medical equipment; human services operations such as nursing homes that provide care to the frail, elderly and disabled; essential infrastructure such as food production and distribution, certain kinds of construction and operating public utilities; and essential government functions.

Essential businesses include such things as grocery stores and pharmacies; food, beverage and cannabis production; agriculture; organizations that provide charitable and social services; newspapers, television, radio and other media services; gas stations and other businesses needed for transportation; financial institutions; and hardware and supply stores.

Per the order, bars and restaurants will still be allowed to offer carry-out, curbside pickup and delivery, and mail and shipping operations will continue as well. Critical trades, shelters and laundry services may also remain open, as may day cares for children of workers exempted by the order.

And a non-essential business that must close its physical workplace may continue operating with employees working exclusively from home.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS: More than 114,000 workers in Illinois filed first-time unemployment claims in the week ending March 21 as the United States saw its biggest one-week spike in recorded history. 3.2 million workers filing for benefits.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the seasonally-adjusted number was due entirely to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has forced bars and restaurants to close, halted public gatherings and severely restricted travel across the country. The department said economists typically expect to see a decline in new jobless claims during the third week of March.

The previous national record of 695,000 initial claims in one week was set in October 1982.

The total number of new claims in Illinois last week was 114,663, a 950-percent jump over the previous week and a 1,338-percent increase over the same week last year when there were only 7,933 new unemployment claims.

Total claims for the month of March in Illinois now stand at 133,763, nearly five times as high as the same point in March 2019 when it stood at 27,493.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, new jobless claims were already beginning to climb before last week. There were 10,870 new claims in the week ending March 14, a 25-percent increase over the week before.

EMERGENCY FUNDING: New federal and charitable funding will soon be available to Illinoisans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as the state on Thursday, March 26, saw its largest one-day spike of new cases and deaths during the pandemic.

President Donald Trump approved Illinois' disaster declaration on Thursday, allowing the state to access emergency funding to expand health care services like increasing hospital and housing capacity and expanding telehealth services.

In his 18th consecutive daily briefing on the pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday he is also seeking a disaster declaration for all 102 counties from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This would give us resources like more unemployment benefits for those not currently eligible for state unemployment insurance, enhanced benefits for those seeking shelter, food and emergency supplies, new legal services and financial assistance to our underinsured households," Pritzker said.

More federal assistance is likely on its way in the coming days after the U.S. Senate on Wednesday night voted unanimously to pass a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, 96-0.

Expected to be passed by the House of Representatives as early as Friday and signed into law by the President, this third wave of COVID-19 relief will help people, hospitals and restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic, said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and Illinois Democrat.

STATE RESPONSE: Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday, March 26, an independent fund, operated by the United Way of Illinois and the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations, to support nonprofit organizations serving people most impacted by the pandemic.

Led by the governor's sister, Chicago real estate investor and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund has already raised more than $23 million.

"These funds will help many people across our state who are really, really hurting now," she said.

In the coming weeks, the fund's steering committee, comprised of philanthropic leaders across the state, will disburse money to charitable organizations that serve communities in need. Money will go toward things like emergency food and basic supplies, housing and shelter, primary health care services, financial services and support for children.

FINANCIAL RELIEF: Gov. JB Pritzker announced a number of financial initiatives Wednesday, March 25, to assist owners of bars, restaurants, hotels and other small businesses during the economic slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

By Friday, he said, owners of businesses with fewer than 50 employees and less than $3 million in 2019 revenue can qualify for a piece of $90 million in state emergency assistance through three new programs.

Pritzker additionally is pushing Illinois' tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 to match the federal government's action.

The first of the state's new programs, called the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund, caters to businesses outside of Chicago. That program includes $60 million for loans worth up to $50,000. Each allows five years for a borrower to make payments, with a delay window of six months.

That offers "crucial time for business owners to begin recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19," Pritzker said during a daily press briefing in Chicago.

The second program also focuses on businesses outside of Chicago, "specifically in areas with low to moderate income populations," the governor said. The Downstate Small Business Stabilization Program provides grants up to $25,000.

The Hospitality Emergency Grant Program offers funds to owners of hotels, bars and restaurants for payroll, rent and job training costs, as well as technology upgrades to allow for pickup or delivery of food and beverages, "which for now have become central to many restaurants staying open," Pritzker said.

Applications for the loans and grants are available at coronavirus.illinois.gov or on the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's website.

HELP FOR HOMEOWNERS: Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday, March 25, urged homeowners to contact their mortgage servicer to take advantage of an initiative Pritzker said he helped negotiate. Institutions, including the federal government and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that own mortgages agreed to offer multi-month payment delays.

His office additionally sent memos to the three national credit bureaus asking them not to diminish Illinoisans' credit ratings due to the current "instabilities."

Treasurer Michael Frerichs said his office "rolled over $200 million in investment notes, or loans," to the comptroller's office to pay medical bills. Because the treasurer is permitted to invest up to $2 billion in Illinois' bill backlog at a reduced rate, as opposed to a 9 or 12 percent interest rate, this step will save money, he said.

"The enduring impacts of COVID-19 on Illinoisans' lives and livelihoods will be significant," the governor said. "We must take every action possible to help people all across our state."

PRISONER TRANSFERS: Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday, March 26, signed two executive orders. One suspends all prisoner admissions from county jails to state prisons during Illinois' disaster proclamation.

The director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, the order states, has the authority to make exceptions. County sheriffs, however, want the decision reevaluated because they say it risks the health of inmates and guards because of overcrowding.

"Local sheriffs across the state believe this policy further puts every county across Illinois at higher risk, jeopardizes the safety of inmates and correctional officers, and requires local government to burden additional costs," said Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, in a statement.

The other executive order allows notaries to witness the signing of forms if parties are using a two-way, audio-video communication.

TESTS AND SUPPLIES: Coronavirus tests, which remain in short supply, are prioritized for hospitalized patients and patients with severe underlying conditions as well as symptomatic health care workers, first responders and other critical infrastructure workers.

Illinoisans who feel unwell should call their doctor to relay symptoms. Depending on that assessment, the clinician will determine whether further action, including a test, is necessary.

The Department of Public Health's current guidance is for those who are ill to stay home for at least seven days after their symptoms, including a fever, cease. That number is down from 14 days, Ezike said, due to new information medical officials across the globe are learning every day.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday, March 25, urged Illinoisans to follow the state's guidance, as opposed to that offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because it is specific to the state. The CDC's directions "really has been a one-size-fits-all," he said.

"We're doing what we think is right and believe this (the stay at home order) is a very effective way for us to diminish the spread of COVID-19," Pritzker said. "... We're doing what is best for the people in Illinois."

The state's medical community is receiving new personal protective equipment, such as gowns, gloves and face masks, "all the time now," the governor said, though not "all that much" from the federal government.

HOSPITALS PREPARE: Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday, March 24, the state is stockpiling medical supplies and working to expand its hospital capacity, even by converting some closed hotels into isolation facilities, as it braces for a sharp increase in demand due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

"In a worst-case scenario surge, the state would turn existing hospitals into almost entirely COVID-19 response hospitals, moving non-COVID patients to other hospitals including these re-outfitted locations," Pritzker said during his daily briefing in Chicago.

"In our worst-case scenario projections - that is without the stay-at-home order - in one week, we would need over 2,500 more non-ICU beds and 800 ICU beds than we have in existence in the entire state today," Pritzker said. "Further still, in two weeks, we would need over 28,000 additional non-ICU beds, and over 9,400 additional ICU beds. That's untenable."

In addition to that, he said that without protective measures, the state would need 4,100 more ventilators to outfit ICU beds within two weeks.

Pritzker said hospitals in Illinois are operating at a little more than 50-percent capacity in their non-ICU units and 57.4-percent capacity in ICU beds. Approximately 28 percent of the state's 2,229 ventilators are in use at this time, he added.

In addition to expanding their capacity, Pritzker said hospitals throughout the state are setting up triage tents where patients displaying symptoms can be prioritized. It has also set up four drive-thru testing sites in the Chicago area, including one operated by the Illinois National Guard. The other three are being operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with Walgreen's and Walmart.

PRICE GOUGING: The Illinois Attorney General's office has been working with a reduced and mostly remote staff the last 10 days, but it continues to warn against COVID-19-related price gouging, scams and utility shut-offs.

Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a news release warning businesses to "maintain fair prices on goods" and announcing that his office will "take action to stop unfair pricing on items that are crucial to stopping the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak."

On Wednesday, March 25, Raoul's office issued another release announcing efforts with a bipartisan group of 32 other attorneys general urging Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist to "rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services."

Raoul and the coalition said while companies are cooperating with the states' efforts to stop price gouging, they asked the online retailers to do more to monitor listings by third-party sellers.

SESSION CANCELED: Lawmaking remains on hold in Illinois amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the state's Senate and House each canceled next week's scheduled session Wednesday, March 25.

The House was scheduled to be in Tuesday through Friday, March 31-April 3, and the Senate was set to be in Tuesday through Thursday, March 31-April 2, ahead of a scheduled two-week spring break from April 6 until an April 21 return.

"For now, we are taking it day by day and urging everyone heed the advice of health care professionals by practicing social distancing, regularly washing hands and avoiding all unneeded travel," Senate President Harmon, D-Oak Park, said in a statement.

A letter to House members from Jessica Basham, chief of staff to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said members "should be prepared to return to Springfield to address urgent matters, including during the weeks of April 5 and April 12 (the legislative spring break)."

The statement from Harmon's office said he asked members to keep their calendars clear for possible return dates as well.

EXECUTIVE ORDERS: Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker is on a pace to set a modern-day record for issuing the most executive orders by an Illinois governor.

Since 1999, which is as far back as the executive orders page of the governor's website goes, the most executive orders any governor issued in a single year was 20. That mark was set by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009. The average from 1999 through 2019 was 11.2 executive orders per year.

But in just the first three months of this year, Pritzker has already issued 12 executive orders, including 10 since he declared a public health disaster on March 9 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Some of the orders Pritzker has issued deal with multiple, unrelated issues.

Some of the executive orders have made headlines, such as the one he issued Friday, March 20, the stay-at-home order directing people essentially to shelter in place except for limited purposes, imposing social distancing rules and ordering certain non-essential businesses to close. That order also contained a provision halting residential evictions throughout the state for as long as the disaster proclamation remains in effect.

RECESSION AHEAD?: A commission that advises the General Assembly on revenue and economic issues is warning that a slowdown of business activity caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to bring about a recession that could cause a 20 percent drop in state revenues, spread out over a number of fiscal years.

The Commission on Government Finance and Accountability, or CoGFA, gave that warning as part of its three-year budget forecast, which it is required to make annually. Those forecasts include an analysis of potential threats and opportunities to the state budget.

"While the certainty of the country, and world, plunging into recession seems to grow each day, attempting to value the impact of COVID-19 on state revenues is virtually impossible," the report stated in the section dealing with economic threats. "With that caveat, it seems reasonable to offer a scenario with more devastating impacts on revenues in the near-term than even the 'Great Recession.' As a result, should revenues experience a peak-trough decline of 20 percent, a revenue reduction of over $8 billion would be experienced, although likely spread over multiple fiscal years."

CoGFA is an agency made up of 12 legislators, divided evenly between the House and Senate, and between Republicans and Democrats, and staffed by financial experts. It is headed by a full-time executive director, Clayton Klenke.

In an interview Wednesday, March 25, Klenke described the possibility of a 20 percent decline in revenue as a "worst case scenario," based on the state's experience in previous recessions.

ECONOMIC, BUDGET IMPACTS: Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday, March 24, acknowledges the state's economy is likely to suffer due to social restrictions to slow the coronavirus outbreak, and that state revenues are likely to suffer as well, which could lead to budget cuts.

In his budget message to the General Assembly in February, Pritzker outlined a $42 billion spending plan that was based, in part, on an economic forecast of continued modest growth, both in the state and nationally. But Pritzker acknowledged Tuesday that assumption no longer holds.

"There is no doubt that any estimates that were made even two months ago would be not useful at this point," he said. "I don't think anyone expected where we would be today."

Pritzker said he has been meeting with the Governor's Office of Management and Budget, as well as with Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes, to get an estimate of how steep the downturn in revenue will be, suggesting there might need to be spending cuts for the remainder of the current fiscal year and adjustments to the budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"And of course there are expenditures that we're needing to make to save people's lives, to protect people across the state," he said. "We're going to do what we need to do, there's no question about that. But yes, of course, behind that we've got to look at our budget situation and do whatever we need to do to address it, and then we've got to also consult with the General Assembly on what we will do for next year's budget."

MEDICAL SUPPLIES: Gov. JB Pritzker detailed the state's efforts to stock up on personal protective equipment and said President Donald Trump was "responsive" to the state's needs in a phone call Monday, March 23, one day after the pair feuded on Twitter.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago, the governor also announced a new partnership with the manufacturing and biotech industries in the state to produce needed supplies and called for donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

"My administration continues to work day and night to scour the globe in the global supply chain," Pritzker said of the hunt for medical supplies needed to deal with COVID-19.

Pritzker said as the state tries to ramp up its preparation efforts in terms of supplies, it is working with in-state manufacturers and trying to purchase supplies on the marketplace. In an effort to bid for ventilators, Pritzker said Illinois was competing with the federal government. In another case, it was bidding against other states and other countries.

"It's the federal government's job to make sure that cash strapped states are not paying more than they should have to pay for supplies, that we are not watching prices go up by the hour, because we're competing against one another, yet for the common good," Pritzker said at the briefing.

He said the first shipment of medical supplies from the federal government came on March 12, and a duplicate order came on March 20, but the two shipments combined equaled only a fraction of the state's request.

He said the total requests and shipments were as follows: 2.34 million protective N95 masks requested, 246,860 received; 900,000 surgical masks requested, 91,298 received; 7.4 million gloves requested, 325,082 received; 924,000 gowns requested, 91,298 received; 47,500 goggles requested, none received; 120,000 face shields requested, 111,978 received.

He said the state also requested 4,000 respirators but received none.

He said the state made another request for hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, gowns, goggles and meals ready to eat, but the March 20 shipment the state received contained the same size shipment it received March 12 without any of the other items.

Pritzker said he spoke to Trump around noon Monday and the president was "very responsive." He said he talked to Trump about a need for masks and ventilators, and noted he has called on the president to use the National Defense Production Act to make the federal government a single purchaser for the necessary equipment rather than having states bid each other up.

NATIONAL GUARD RUMORS: The Illinois National Guard is assisting the state's COVID-19 response by setting up testing centers and other civil action, not preparing for military action as has been rumored on social media, its adjutant general said during a news briefing on the virus Monday, March 23.

Brig. Gen. Richard Neely, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard, reassured Illinoisans at Gov. JB Pritzker's daily coronavirus news conference in Chicago.

"We're not doing any policing action," Neely said. "We're not doing any kind of work at all like that."

Pritzker's disaster proclamation on March 9 authorized Army and Air National Guard soldiers to help with these state's response to COVID-19. Since then, soldiers have been providing civil, medical and logistical assistance, including engineering and HVAC duties.

"These are your citizen soldiers ... that are trained in many different skillsets," Neely said.

Neely said the Guard has begun setting up testing centers and some members have even tested health care workers and first responders for COVID-19 in Rosemont, with greater public testing upcoming. He said other soldiers are helping distribution of medical equipment, while a "specialized engineering team" is surveying closed-down hospital sites.

"They're actually looking at the heating, the plumbing, the electrical throughout those facilities and identifying which ones are easy to quickly turn on if we need that additional capacity and which are not," Neely said.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS: The novel coronavirus could "create long-lasting, devastating damage" to Illinois health care facilities that serve vulnerable communities.

Community health centers are treating fewer patients than normal after all 390 locations around the state canceled routine and preventative medical visits to slow the spread of COVID-19 per guidance from federal and state officials.

That means fewer government reimbursements for facilities that use them to pay staff salaries and purchase supplies. According to a report from Capital Link, community health centers in Illinois are projected to lose almost $140 million in revenue over the next three months, or 70 percent of the business typically generated.

This segment of the state's health care safety net is already underfunded by about $150 million annually, Jordan Powell, president of Illinois Primary Health Care Association, said.

"This could have a long-lasting impact on the health center delivery system," he said Monday, March 23. "Because we're already underfunded, it only exacerbates the short-term problem we're facing right now."

Illinois' entire congressional delegation signed a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker urging the state to allocate temporary funding to alleviate these centers' potential need to lay off staff or permanently shutter facilities.

QUIET CAPITOL: The Illinois General Assembly on Monday, March 23, began its second week of shutdown due to the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, and officials said it is still uncertain when, or under what circumstances, the session will resume.

Officials in the offices of Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday that conversations have been taking place among legislative leaders and their respective caucuses, but as of yet no decision has been made.

"For now, we continue to weigh legislative and procedural priorities so that when we return to session we can be effective and efficient while also protecting public health and safety," Harmon's spokesman, John Patterson, said in an email.

The last day lawmakers met was Thursday, March 5. They were scheduled to be off the following week, March 9-13, as many members campaigned in their home districts during the lead-up to the March 17 primary. They were scheduled to return Wednesday, March 18, but several days before that Gov. JB Pritzker issued a disaster declaration and began urging Illinoisans to practice "social distancing."

"The plan is to monitor and talk with the offices, and come back when it's safe to come back, not only for members of the General Assembly but whatever arrangement we've made relative to the public meeting part," Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, said in a phone conversation.

The most important piece of legislation awaiting action is the state budget. Pritzker has proposed a $42 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1, some of which depends on voters approving a constitutional amendment in November that would allow the state to levy a graduated income tax that levies higher rates on higher levels of income.

VOLUNTEERISM URGED: As the state saw the largest single-day jump in confirmed COVID-19 cases and an infant tested positive for the virus, Gov. JB Pritzker on Sunday, March 22, called for volunteerism from healthy Illinoisans and increased blood donations.

The governor directed potential volunteers to serve.illinois.gov, where those looking to help will be matched with service organizations that are in need of volunteers.

"This is an opportunity for healthy college students looking for something to do, or individuals who aren't able to work from home, an opportunity for people who are healthy and looking to help," Pritzker said at the briefing.

He said the Serve Illinois Commission is providing CDC guidance to service organizations across the state. This includes daily health surveys and temperature checks for volunteers and staff, disinfecting surfaces at shift changes, and limiting volunteer groups to no more than 10 people at a time, all with proper social distancing parameters.

He also called for blood donations as blood drives across the state are canceled, and noted there is no evidence that respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 can be spread through the blood stream.

He also emphasized that donating blood does not weaken one's immune system.He also called for donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE. His administration can be contacted on the matter via email at PPE.donations@illinois.gov.

PRITZKER, TRUMP SPAR: Gov. JB Pritzker was critical of the federal government's COVID-19 response in a cable news appearance Sunday, March 22, prompting an angry Twitter reply from President Donald Trump as the number of confirmed cases in Illinois surpassed 1,000 and known virus-related deaths grew to nine.

On CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday morning, the governor claimed that a lack of coordinated action from Washington has forced states into some of the drastic steps they have taken.

"There is no doubt that the economy is being significantly harmed by the delays that the federal government had during January and February getting going dealing with this," Pritzker told host Jake Tapper. "That's why we've had to go on stay-at-home orders or keeping kids at home or closing bars and restaurants and so on."

Pritzker during his Sunday daily briefing addressed the morning's TV appearance and ensuing Twitter spat at the end of his COVID-19 remarks, saying "I refuse to spend more time on this than it deserves" before rhetorically telling Trump to "get to work, or get out of the way."

"One of the things that's been most heartening here in Illinois is the degree to which Republicans from all over our state have reached out to me to ask how they can help," Pritzker said. "Even people who have had profound political disagreements with me in the past have been among the first to call or text me asking what they could do to help Illinois in our hour of need."

While Pritzker said "Illinoisans of all political stripes are doing their part" in addressing the virus, he added "I'm finding it hard to contain my anger with Donald Trump's response to this national crisis."

"I have doctors and nurses and first responders begging for masks, equipment, and more tests, and I have a floor full of staff who are working day and night to hunt down the supplies that our health care workers, and our first responders need, and the supplies we know they are going to need," Pritzker said. "We're doing that because Donald Trump promised to deliver for all the states weeks ago, and so far has done very little."

Trump, in a Tweet, took aim at Pritzker, other critical governors and the media.

"(JB Pritzker), Governor of Illinois, and a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News @CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn't be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!" the president posted to Twitter.

That prompted a Twitter response from Pritzker and his comments at the daily briefing later in the afternoon.

"You wasted precious months when you could've taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans. You should be leading a national response instead of throwing tantrums from the back seat. Where were the tests when we needed them? Where's the PPE? Get off Twitter & do your job," the governor wrote.

RETIRED MEDICAL WORKERS CALLED: Governor JB Pritzker on Saturday, March 21, issued a "call to action" to retired health care workers to help fight Illinois' COVID-19 outbreak, as the state enters its first day under a "stay-at-home" order aimed to stifle the spread of the disease.

"I'm asking all former physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and respiratory care therapists who have recently left the field, whether for retirement or a new profession, to come back and join the fight against COVID-19, Pritzker said Saturday during his daily coronavirus news conference in Chicago.

Pritzker said the state will waive fees and expedite licenses so they can rejoin the health care workforce "right away." He said reinstatement forms for interested people will be available Monday on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's website, idfpr.com.

The governor also noted that Illinoisans with medical licenses nearing expiration will automatically be extended through the end of September. Additionally, Pritzker said he is going to make it easier for medical professionals practicing in Illinois' border communities, like St. Louis and the Quad Cities, to treat Illinois patients.

"We're in the middle of a battle, and we need reinforcements," he said.

NEED FOR HEALTH CARE SUPPLIES: Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Saturday, March 21, asked people to limit non-essential dental procedures and elective surgeries so that health care workers can use the personal protective equipment (PPE) involved, including masks, gloves and gowns.

"We are encouraging strongly all ambulatory surgery centers and veterinarians to donate PPE that is not immediately needed," she added.

Gov. JB Pritzker said the state has "a reasonable handle" on the amount of PPE hospitals have and need, and he is reaching out to suppliers "every day." He added that he has gotten "limited help" from the federal government in acquiring PPE, including an equipment order he said was only 25 percent fulfilled.

He also continues to be frustrated with the number of COVID-19 tests being provided by the feds. Even though the state is seeing more tests, Pritzker said, they are still not "the numbers that were promised weeks ago."

"My optimism has waned, honestly," he said. "I said the other day that the federal government is like Lucy with the football, and I feel like Charlie Brown."

He added that it has actually been health care workers, researchers and lab technicians in Illinois who have figured out how to test and increased testing at state-run and commercial labs.

"The ingenuity of the private sector, the ingenuity of the people who are working in the laboratories, at the hospitals all across our state, is heartening," he said.





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