Gov. Pritzker Announces Series of New Measures to Help Illinoisans Affected by COVID-19
SPRINGFIELD — The number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Illinois almost doubled overnight, from 160 cases to 288, the state’s Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.
The “novel severe acute respiratory illness” has now been confirmed in 17 counties, including new cases in Kendall and Madison counties.
Among the updated count are 20 new cases at a long-term care facility in DuPage County that first reported a confirmed case Saturday.
“I know how tempting it can be to look at the illnesses and deaths in other countries and think, well that could never happen here,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday at the St. Clair County Health Department in Belleville. “... It could happen here if we do not act with all due haste. From everything we know about this virus, no place, no person, is immune.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike added later at a media briefing in Murphysboro that “the grim truth is these numbers will continue to grow significantly, as will, likely, the unfortunate statistic of fatalities.”
The first coronavirus-related death in Illinois was announced by her department Tuesday.
Actions taken, and not, by European governments should act as “a cautionary tale,” Pritzker said. He again urged residents to stay home — children should avoid seeing their friends and elderly individuals should ask neighbors for help securing supplies.
The governor said he knows the coronavirus is “taking a toll on everyone,” and he is working to provide those most affected with assistance.
“This coronavirus is damaging people in a variety of ways — their health, their safety and their livelihoods — and so we want to do everything we can to minimize that damage,” Pritzker said at the Murphysboro briefing.
He said he has called up 60 National Guardsmen to assist with delivering meals to children out of school, asked the federal government to ensure health care is extended to those who might not have it, opened applications for those who need unemployment security, organized with sheriffs across the state to halt evictions during the state of emergency, and established utilities will not shut off service to those unable to pay.
“The drastic steps we’re taking now are what we have to do — closing the schools, closing the restaurants — but it will decrease the [number of] people who will become infected. That’s what we want,” Ezike said. “With fewer people infected, there’s less illness. With less illness, fewer people need care. With less people needing care, less people need intensive care unit beds, which of course are limited.”
The “biggest challenge we’ve faced so far,” Pritzker added, is lack of testing. The root of the issue was the federal government’s decision to engineer its own COVID-19 test as opposed to using the one created by the World Health Organization.
Pritzker said he has spoken to leaders of pharmaceutical companies to put Illinois “a little bit ahead of the line” in procuring supplies needed for testing, but, he added, supplies have thus far “mostly been monopolized” by the federal government.
Ezike said the state has the capacity to test 60 to 100 samples per day, but with the ongoing deficiency of tests, “it will take every single one of us making every sacrifice that we can to reduce this virus.”
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said in Belleville that law enforcement personnel across the state are prepared to enforce the order for restaurants and bars to remain closed to dine-in customers. Failure to do so qualifies as a misdemeanor.
“Law enforcement is prepared to do what it always does and do it well,” he said. “But if you have any respect for the men and women of law enforcement, if you have any respect for your fellow citizens, if you have any respect for your loved ones or for yourself, you won’t put us in the position of having to enforce the medically-necessary provisions.”
Kelly also said state police are operating as they do during a severe winter storm — officers are focusing on calls for assistance and preparing to secure medical facilities as needed. Investigations of violent crimes are continuing, with interviews conducted largely over the phone. He added emergency calls reporting crimes in progress have decreased in recent days.
Illinois launched another online resource for residents looking to learn about COVID-19 cases, preparation tips, or in need of other resources: www.coronavirus.illinois.gov.
The Public Health Department’s statewide hotline is 1-800-889-3931, and its related email address for questions is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gov. Pritzker Announces Series of New Measures to Help Illinoisans Affected by COVID-19
Governor Announces Sales Tax Deferral for Bars and Restaurants, SBA Loan Eligibility, New Grocery Hours for Seniors, Expanded Health Care Services
Chicago — As Illinoisans face increasing challenges as a result of the coronavirus, Governor JB Pritzker announced a series of new measures to relieve pressure on small businesses, increase safe opportunities for vulnerable populations to purchase essentials and expand health care services for patients and providers.
“Our social distancing efforts are the most important thing we can do to protect our seniors and support our health care workers,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The fight against COVID-19 is a scientific one: it requires the best that medicine, innovation and statistics have to offer. But as we do all that we can to find a cure, find treatments, and support our medical infrastructure, we can’t forget the exceptional human costs of these mitigating measures. We must do all that we can to address them.”
SALES TAX DEFERRAL FOR BARS AND RESTAURANTS
To help alleviate some of the unprecedented challenges facing bars and restaurants due to COVID-19, Gov. Pritzker has directed the Department of Revenue to defer sales tax payments for more than 24,000 small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants — accounting for nearly 80% of all such entities statewide.
Under the directive, eating and drinking establishments that incurred less than $75,000 in sales tax liabilities last year will not be charged penalties or interest on payments due in March, April or May made late. The Department of Revenue estimates this will give relief to nearly 80% of bars and restaurants in Illinois.
Penalties and interest will be automatically waived; however, qualified taxpayers must still file their sales tax return even if they are unable to make a payment. Any taxpayers taking advantage of this relief will be required to pay their sales tax liabilities due in March, April and May in four installments starting on May 20 and extending through August 20. For more information, please view IDOR’s informational bulletin available at tax.illinois.gov.
SBA APPROVES SMALL BUSINESS LOANS IN ILLINOIS
Two days after submitting documentation demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on more than 3,000 businesses across the state, Gov. Pritzker announced today that the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance loans for small businesses facing financial hardship in all 102 counties due to COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov
NEW GROCERY STORE HOURS FOR OLDER RESIDENTS
After convening the largest grocers and food manufacturers in the state with the help of Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Gov. Pritzker announced today that a growing coalition of grocery stores statewide will set aside one or more hours of operation for older residents to shop, before stores open to the general public.
Among the grocers with new hours for elderly shoppers are Whole Foods and Shop & Save in the Chicagoland area and Hy-Vee and Valli Produce throughout Illinois.
EXPANDING HEALTH CARE SERVICES
Gov. Pritzker announced today that his administration is implementing several measures to remove regulatory barriers for health providers and increase opportunity for patients as Illinoisans are urged to stay home as much as possible during this time.
Through emergency rules and an executive order, the Pritzker administration has significantly relaxed rules around telemedicine for both Medicaid and private insurers, allowing more providers to get reimbursed for these services that allow patients more flexibility and safety. For plans regulated by the Department of Insurance, the executive order calls for providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits and prohibits private health insurers from imposing any cost-sharing for in-network providers. For Medicaid, the emergency rules also require providers to be reimbursed at the same rate at which they are reimbursed for in-person visits.
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services has filed an 1135 waiver with the federal government to remove administrative barriers for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Pritzker administration is seeking to increase access to telehealth and the number of health care providers that can screen patients, allow 90-day prescription supplies without prior authorization and early refills, as well as several other items that will increase flexibility and provide additional resources.
The Department of Human Services has also filed a federal waiver to ease eligibility requirements for food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, which cover 1.8 million Illinoisans and 174,000 pregnant women and parents of young children respectively.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES WILL REMAIN
As rumors continue to swirl, Gov. Pritzker assures Illinoisans that essential services will always remain open, including but not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. As new information becomes available, the Pritzker administration will continue to communicate with the public and media in a timely and transparent manner.
ILLINOISANS: STAY HOME
Social distancing is the paramount strategy for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The Governor continues to make tough calls to keep Illinoisans safe, including mandating that events of 50 people or more be canceled, suspending dine-in operations of bars and restaurants and temporarily closing public and private K-12 schools. Public health officials continue to urge Illinoisans to stay home as much as possible.
Those experiencing symptoms should call a health care provider who will help arrange medical treatment without putting others at risk of exposure.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has a statewide COVID-19 hotline and website to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case: call 1-800-889-3931 or visit IDPH.illinois.gov.