Pritzker says he’s ‘going it alone’ to ramp up COVID-19 testing, state won’t reopen without ‘standards’ met
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, the Democratic governor said states continue to “go it alone” to ramp up testing.
Illinois Gov J.B. Pritzker on Sunday morning said he’s not counting on the White House to help Illinois ramp up its coronavirus testing capabilities – and he vowed that Illinois won’t see an economic reopening until the state meets “all the standards” he’s set in his phased plan.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper, the Democratic governor said states continue to “go it alone” to ramp up testing. According to a Harvard University analysis, Illinois should reach 64,000 tests a day before stay-at-home regulations are further relaxed. Pritzker last week achieved a goal of receiving more than 20,000 tests results back in one day.
The governor has said more testing is fundamental to the state’s ability to reopen the economy while controlling the spread of the virus.
“I have not been counting on the White House because there have been too many situations in which they’ve made promises not delivered,” Pritzker said when asked whether he needs Trump to help Illinois ramp up testing.
“Very recently they promised a lot of swabs. They’re supposed to arrive today, the first shipment of those. I’m looking forward to that. But what we’re doing is we’re going it alone, as the White House has led all the states to do.”
Pritzker on Friday said the White House planned to send 620,000 individual swabs and 465,000 vials of viral transport media — a liquid needed to perform tests. The shipment was to arrive in early May but had been delayed.
Despite the governor’s complaints, Illinois has received ventilators, surgical masks, N95 masks, gowns and face shields from the Strategic National Stockpile. But Pritzker has said Illinois had to rush to get supplies itself before any federal help came in.
Illinois has had a burn rate of about seven to 10 days of its supplies of PPE. Despite his early pleas for more ventilators, there are 739 COVID-19 patients on ventilators as of Sunday, with 4,497 more available.
The governor also reiterated that he’s emulating Massachusetts’ contact tracing program, “and we think that we can have a massive contact tracing effort up in the next few weeks.” The governor said tracing is essential in order for businesses to reopen.
Regarding a critical Chicago Tribune editorial in which the paper wrote that Pritzker has moved the goalposts from getting the outbreak under control to eradicating it, Pritzker said the edit board “didn’t read the plan.”
The governor on Tuesday set forth an extensive reopening plan, with the state currently in second phase. He immediately received criticism from many small businesses and Republican legislators who warned businesses will fail without an earlier opening.
There are metrics attached to Pritzker’s plan. To get to the Phase 3, a region “must be at or under a 20% test positivity rate and increasing by no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period.” It must also show no overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 symptoms for 28 days and have at least 14% of ICU beds, medical and surgery beds and ventilators available.
“The truth is that coronavirus is still out there. It hasn’t gone anywhere, and so we all are going to have to change the way we do things until we’re able to eradicate it,” Pritzker said. “If the Chicago Tribune thinks that everybody’s going to go back to completely normal without us having a very effective treatment or a vaccine, they’re dead wrong.”
Asked why Illinois hasn’t yet seen 14 consecutive days of downward movement, the governor said the state’s cases are going up because of increased testing. He said his team is watching the positivity rate, the number of people entering hospitals and the number of hospitals available in the event there’s a surge.
“We’ve done a lot to make sure that we’re keeping these numbers moving in the right direction,” Pritzker said. “And we will not reopen unless we meet all the standards that I’ve set for doing so.”