by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer


CHICAGO (CBS) — With the total number of cases of novel coronavirus in Illinois surging to nearly 9,000 on Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker urged anyone going outside to wear masks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“There’s a reason that we were raised to cover your mouth or use your elbow when you cough or sneeze. It’s a simple gesture to reduce the number of germs that you spread to those around you,” he said as he and Mayor Lori Lightfoot toured the McCormick Place alternate treatment site on Friday. “Blocking that by wearing a mask in public seems like a commonsense way to do what’s right for everyone around you.”

The governor said people can wear homemade fabric masks if they cannot find manufactured medical masks.

“Really just something to cover your nose and mouth out of courtesy to those around you in case you’re one of those who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic and could be spreading the virus. Wearing a mask is just one more way that we can help take care of one another in our state,” he said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said there have been 1,209 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, including 53 more deaths. The state has now had a total of 8,904 coronavirus cases, including 210 deaths, in 64 counties.

Pritzker acknowledged the state still isn’t testing enough people. Illinois is now conducting 5,000 coronavirus tests per day, and soon expects to conduct 10,000 tests per day, according to Pritzker.

“The federal government said they were going to provide millions of tests, and all the states relied upon that promise, and it still hasn’t happened,” he said. “Frankly, I’d like to get to 100,000 per day if we could, but right now the testing supplies, the swabs, everything about the tests are very difficult to come by, and there’s no federal plan for this. So every state is on their own. Like I’ve said, it’s the Wild West out there.”

Pritzker said the city and state are looking at several different models to try to determine when Illinois might see a peak in cases, and how long the peak will last, to determine what resources Illinois needs on hand to treat COVID-19 patients who will need to be treated at hospitals.

“We believe, based upon the various models that we’ve looked at, and the collective one that’s still being worked on, that somewhere between the middle of April and the end of April might be the peak,” he said.

The governor noted that reaching that peak won’t mean a quick drop to zero cases.

“Once we get to that peak, we’re all going to be praying that we come off that peak quickly, but we might not. We might be flattened at that peak; that is flattening the curve, and then we  want it to fall of course,” he said.

Pritzker also weighed in on controversial comments from Jared Kushner, senior aide and son-in-law to President Donald Trump. Earlier this week, Kushner criticized states for not building up their own stockpiles, saying that the “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile, it’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”

“I don’t know if Jared Kushner knows this, but it’s called the United States of America, and the federal government, which has a stockpile, is supposed to be backstopping the states. He apparently does not know that,” Pritzker said.

The governor said Illinois and the city of Chicago do have their own stockpiles of medical equipment, but said those supplies aren’t enough to meet the demand of a pandemic, and noted the national stockpile indeed is meant to provide supplies to states in an emergency.

As of early Friday morning, the stockpile’s home page had read: “Strategic National Stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency. Organized for scalable response to a variety of public health threats, this repository contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously.”

These sentences were gone as of Friday afternoon. In their place were new sentences that emphasized that the stockpile is meant as a temporary backup for states’ own supplies.

The revised page reads: “The Strategic National Stockpile’s role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available.”

Pritzker accused the Trump administration of abdicating its role of helping provide vital medical equipment to the states during the pandemic, leaving governors to compete with each other, the federal government, and other countries on the open market for personal protective equipment

“I think Jared Kushner just does not understand this issue. He does not understand what the federal government’s role is supposed to be in a national emergency,” he said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also noted the federal government has a stockpile of only 10,000 ventilators available.

“The question we should ask is what the heck has the Trump administration been doing over the last 3 ½ years?” she said. “What that tells me, and I believe what that tells public health officials across the nation, is that the federal government has failed to do the planning that it needs on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to be prepared.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The CNN Wire contributed to this report.)