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‘Where Were The Tests When We Needed Them?’: Trump, Pritzker Spar On Federal COVID-19 Response As Illinois Hits 1,049 Cases

During his Sunday COVID-19 news conference, the governor said he was "finding it hard" to contain his anger with Trump's response to this crisis.

The White House/Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — For weeks, Gov. JB Pritzker has criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying Trump was ill-prepared, made false promises about test kits that haven’t come and denied the severity of the crisis for too long.

On Sunday, Trump fired back on Twitter, saying Pritzker and “a very small group of certain other governors” should not blame the federal government for their “shortcomings.” The tweet led to a war of words between the president, governor and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The tweet storm came as Illinois officials announced 1,049 confirmed cases of the virus statewide, including one in an infant. Nine people with the virus have died in Illinois as of Sunday, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Chicago has had 345 positive cases of the virus so far.

During Pritzker’s Sunday COVID-19 news conference, the governor said he was “finding it hard” to contain his anger with Trump’s response to this crisis.

“Donald Trump promised to deliver for all the states weeks ago and so far has done very little,” Pritzker said. “Apparently the only way to get the president of the United States to pay attention is to go on national television and make noise about it.”

On March 6, Trump said anyone “wants a test can get a test,” which was not true anywhere in the country at that point or now.

Test kit availability has increased, but supplies are still extremely limited so people with mild symptoms are urged to stay home and not get tested.

Meanwhile, states have been scrambling to get their own supplies to medical workers, including masks, hand sanitizer and test kits.

Pritzker is pleading for businesses, veterinarians and others with protective equipment to donate to hospitals, saying Trump’s administration has given Illinois just 25 percent of the gear the state requested.

Pritzker praised those who have donated, noting TV shows like “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med” had donated the supplies they would have used in filming.

After Trump’s tweets Sunday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot chimed in, telling the president to either “lead or get out of the way.”

Those who wish to help can donate personal protective equipment, like N95 masks and gloves, can email for information.

“Know that you are truly providing life-saving equipment for our health care workers,” Pritzker said.

The governor and other officials also asked Illinoisans to help out in other ways: by working with service organizations to provide food for people who are homeless, by volunteering, by delivering groceries and supplies to neighbors who can’t leave their homes during the crisis and by donating blood to avoid a shortage.

And on Saturday, Pritzker asked health care workers who have moved to other fields or who have recently retired to rejoin so they can help during the crisis.

The governor said he’s optimistic commercial labs and other parts of the private sector will also help find solutions.

“Because so far the federal government hasn’t,” he said during a Saturday briefing.

“Just one example: Private companies … have developed rapid COVID-19 tests” that work on the spot instead of in hours, he said.

“That would be a revolution here. I’m hopeful in that regard we’re gonna get help. The ingenuity of the people of Illinois, the ingenuity of the private sector, the ingenuity of the people who work in hospitals all across the state is heartening.”

In a Saturday call for donated supplies, Pritzker said his administration is keeping an inventory of available supplies — but they’re going fast. Gowns, face shields and gloves are needed, with an acute need for masks for first responders.

“We’ve gotten no help from the federal government — or let me say limited help. … We got 25 percent of what we asked for from the federal government,” he said.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where corona is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been advised to stay home.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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