CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after issuing a disaster proclamation over the novel coronavirus, a visibly upset Gov. JB Pritzker said the federal government has not done enough to supply tests for COVID-19, even as the number of confirmed virus cases in Illinois continues to rise.
“In order to best care for our patients, we need to be able to gauge the exact scope of COVID-19’s spread, and it is imperative that the federal government provide leadership here,” Pritzker said. “I am very frustrated with the federal government. We have not received enough tests. We have tests, we are testing, but we would like to be able to test anybody that shows signs they need to be tested, and anybody who would like a test.”
Pritzker also accused President Donald Trump of downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus situation in the U.S. The governor said the federal government has promised for weeks that commercial testing labs will be coming online soon, but it still hasn’t happened. He also criticized the Trump administration for opting not to use the same coronavirus tests already being administered overseas.
“The federal government passed up the opportunity to use the testing that was already developed in Europe and in Asia that is now being used on hundreds of thousands, in fact millions of people. We could have been using that weeks ago here in the United States,” he said.
Public health officials have confirmed eight new cases of coronavirus in Illinois, including the first two outside of Cook County, according to the governor; including a man in his late teens with ties to Lake and McHenry counties, and a woman in her 60s from Kane County.
Pritzker said neither of the cases outside Cook County involve a person who works in the healthcare industry, who has traveled to an affected region, or has had close contact with a known COVID-19 case, meaning they’re likely community transmission cases.
In addition to those two cases, the newest cases of COVID-19 in Illinois include:
- two men in their 40s in Chicago,
- a man in his 70s in suburban Cook County,
- a woman in her 60s in suburban Cook County,
- a woman in her 40s in suburban Cook County,
- and a man in his 40s in suburban Cook County.
Illinois now has a total of 19 confirmed coronavirus cases since the outbreak began.
Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said officials are investigating the travel history of all eight new cases, as well as any known close contact with a confirmed case. She said all of the newest cases are being isolated, either at home or at a hospital, and are stable. Public health officials will reach out to anyone who has had close contact with the new cases as soon as possible.
Ezike said health officials also are in regular contact with hospitals across Illinois to track the available number of ICU beds and isolation rooms, to minimize the chances of being overwhelmed by a spike in cases.
The state’s top medical officials were quick to say the jump in cases is not a surprise. They anticipate the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases will continue to grow.
“We know that this is going to spread. We’re probably not at the peak now, and so again everything that we do now will help determine how high that peak gets,” she said.
Ezike said people need to remember to follow basic health and hygiene tips to limit the spread of the virus, such as regularly washing their hands, staying home if they are sick, avoiding contact with others who are ill, and consulting their doctors if they suspect they might have contracted the virus.
“Social distancing will be important to slow and reduce and dampen the effect on our community,” Ezike added. “This may include canceling large events. It may include limiting going out in the community.”
While health officials have also urged people to avoid large public gatherings, and authorities in Boston and Dublin have canceled St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Pritzker declined to say if Chicago also should cancel its parades – the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown on Saturday and the South Side Irish Parade on Sunday in the Beverly/Mount Greenwood area.
The governor said he’s talked to Mayor Lori Lightfoot about the parades, and she has been in contact with parade organizers.
“They may be making announcements tomorrow about any decisions that have been made,” he said.
Meantime, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services will temporarily suspend group classes and activities at its six regional senior centers and 15 senior satellite centers starting Wednesday. The centers will remain open, and senior meal services and food pantry services will continue as normal.
“This is really following the commonsense direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are precautionary actions focused on thinking about the health and safety of seniors citywide,” Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady said. “We do know that older adults are twice as likely as others to have serious COVID-19 illness. That’s why these instructions are coming about staying home as much as possible, especially away from mass gatherings, and staying away from others who are sick.”