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Gov. Pritzker Says Federal Coronavirus Response A ‘Profound Failure’ That Will Go Down In History

llinois saw an additional 16 deaths from the coronavirus in the past day and 715 new confirmed cases,

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — On a day Illinois saw an additional 16 deaths from the coronavirus and 715 new confirmed cases, Gov. JB Pritzker sternly rebuked the federal government’s response, calling it a “profound failure.”

The governor said many states like Illinois have done what they can to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the response from the U.S. government hasn’t been enough.

“I take no pride in being earlier than others, but I’m honestly upset about the lack of early action on a national basis,” said Pritzker, who has been harshly critical of President Donald Trump’s administration since cases began to rise in Illinois.

Earlier this week, Pritzker said Trump promised him hundreds of thousands of N95 protective masks but instead sent 300,000 of the wrong type of masks instead.

And the federal government has repeatedly promised more testing and hospital supplies would come to Illinois — but none of those promises have been met.

“This will go down in history as a profound failure of our national government,” Pritzker said.

As of Thursday, there have been 157 deaths in Illinois from the pandemic and 7,695 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois. The new fatalities include Chicago Police officer Marco Di Franco, 50, a 21-year veteran of the department assigned to the narcotics unit. He was the first police officer to die from a COVID-19 infection in the state.

“The bravery that’s demonstrated every day by these officers and the tremendous loss to all of us in the state of Illinois … is something I think we should all take pause about and just remember how important these folks are,” the governor said.

The increases seen Thursday were smaller than the Tuesday to Wednesday jump, when 42 people died and 986 new confirmed cases were added.

But officials have warned not to read too much into day-to-day decreases, as they could be a result of slow out-of-state test results. The peak of the cases, state officials have estimated, could be two or three weeks away.

Pritzker said he stepped up his criticism of the Trump response after the state has largely exhausted its options for trying to slow the spread — and resulting deaths — of coronavirus.

Illinois has closed schools, bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses. Pritzker has ordered people to stay at home as much as possible. Chicago has closed its most popular trails and lakefront parks and is fining sick people who go outside up to $500.

And officials have called companies across the world for hospital supplies, testing supplies and personal protective equipment even while pleading for individuals and businesses to donate what they have. They’ve also asked health care workers to volunteer, making it easier for former workers and those who practice out of state to become licensed here.

There’s little more that can be done from the state government, Pritzker said — now, Illinoisans simply have to stay home and help fight the virus.

“Our strongest weapon against COVID-19 is you,” he said.

As part of that, Pritzker announced a push urging people to stay inside called All In Illinois. The campaign, which debuted with commercials from celebrities and public service announcements, asks people to stay home and encourage others to stay home, too.

“I see you fighting for each other, Illinois,” the governor said. “I see you as tough as you are kind, as courageous as you are creative. I see you taking care of one another. And I’m very, very proud. For a little while longer, we must all commit to staying home, staying safe.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, also urged even those working at essential businesses — which have been allowed to remain open — to take safety precautions. The state has started seeing clusters of cases at such businesses, she said, but those workplaces should be monitoring employees for signs of sickness, not letting sick employees work and cleaning regularly.

And Ezike warned people not to congregate for religious services, either.

“There are reports that people are still holding services,” she said. “I understand the importance of communing with fellow believers, but let’s understand, kids … religious houses have to do the same. We all must make this sacrifice. Then, on the other side of this pandemic, we can gather at the mosque or the synagogue, the church … . We must not continue putting people at risk. Please hold virtual services whether by web or phone.”


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 or cough 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 COVID-19 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 ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

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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