Friday, March 13, 2020 11:30 a.m.
The following printout was generated by real-time captioning, an accommodation for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a certified record and cannot be used in proceedings as an official transcript or record.
RYAN CROKE: Good morning, everyone. My name is Ryan Croke. I am the Chief of Staff at the Department of Human Services. Just offering a two-minute warning before we get started. Thank you so much to the many of you who are on the line. To avoid interference and noise problems, please do be sure to mute your phone while the speakers are underway. In just a moment, we will be joined by deputy governor Sol Flores in the governor's office to kick things off. We really appreciate your joining the call. We appreciate your patience as many folks continue to join this call. Thank you so much and in just a moment we will get started. Deputy Governor Flores if you can hear us and you would like to start, the floor is yours and ready whenever you would like to begin the call. Again, thank you to the many of you who are on the line. Just to ensure that this proceeds in a useful and orderly way, we really appreciate your listening. A few quick housekeeping items for everyone's benefit. Your phones will be muted automatically. Please do not unmute them. For questions after presentations and after discussion from our state agency leaders, you can type questions into the chat box which should be located on the lower right portion of your screen. There is a nice little icon that is a blue circle with a speech bubble inside of it. We will make time for Q & A after the presentation and in order to proceed in an orderly and systematic way, we do ask that you submit your comments through the chat box feature so that we don't have hundreds of people talking over each other. We so appreciate your help in providing questions through the chat box feature. We are really looking forward to this conversation and Deputy Governor Flores without further ado the floor is yours.
PAULA BASTA: This is Paula.
SOL FLORES: Good afternoon. We have a lot of people here. Thank you for your patience and flexibility. This is Sol Flores in the governor's office. We know how very important this issue is to all of you that are key partners in serving and working with some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans. The governor has been sharing moment -to -moment information regarding --
-- There is a daily press conference the governor, along with leaders in the state, are putting on as necessary, and we will also have opportunities for you to get your questions answered directly from the department or the governor's office.
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: This is Ngozi Ezike with the Department of Public Health. I want to share an update on coronavirus and our response here in Illinois. Globally there have been over 130,000 cases with an associated 5,000 deaths. But in the U.S., there have been approximately 1,600 cases with 41 reported deaths, with high levels of infection. We have also had people who have been in direct contact of a COVID19 case and then there have been another significant minority about 20% to 30% of cases where there is not a clear connection and suggest spread within the community. Again, I said that there have been no deaths in Illinois. Most cases are recovering and are in isolation either at home or in the hospital. This new COVID19 has been associated with more severe respiratory illness particularly in some high-risk populations. Those populations include elderly patients and people with preexisting medical conditions. As we follow the information from around the world and within our country, the guidance for this virus is changing day by day, sometimes even hourly, but we want people to think about what they can do individually to reduce their risk of possible infection.
One of the most key recommendations that everyone can utilize to help decrease and limit spread is to stay home when you are sick. Even if you have a mild illness and you think you are well enough to go to work, we want people to think about the communities that they live in and the people that they work with who maybe if they caught this similar illness could have severe consequences. That is why you heard the Governor give guidance about the cancellation of large events and other mass gatherings. We want everyone to be as safe as possible and limit contact also known as social distancing is important in this effort. Washing your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap is another important measure. Covering your cough with a tissue. --
So, I want to make sure we review the symptoms of the illness. They are largely indistinguishable from an average of flu-like illness which is also circulating at this time. The predominant symptom is fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. The chest X-ray could show a pneumonia. The way that it is transmitted is through spread from an infected person through others through the air by coughing or sneezing, close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, and that's why we are encouraging people to elbow bump if they need to greet one another. This is not the time for hugging or shaking hands then touching your mouth or nose or eyes can be a way to spread the virus.
Washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes and nose, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, those are our major prevention strategies. It is noteworthy that there is no vaccine and there are no medicines to treat this infection at this time. To relieve symptoms if you are not ill enough to require hospitalization, you can take fever medicines to help reduce the fever, drink plenty of liquids and stay home and rest. So we want to keep a special eye on that population but the general population needs to keep themselves as well as possible to prevent spread to our more vulnerable population. If you are ill, if you have a provider, please call your provider through whatever triage line may be in place to talk about your symptoms and determine if you need to come in or if you can perform self-care at home. Again, if you feel you are sick, we want you to stay home until you are better to prevent spread of the virus. Additional information can be found on the Department of Public Health's website dph.Illinois.gov and important travel information in terms of countries that have been listed as level three or level two that you would not want to travel to for nonessential travel listed on the CDC website and that information is updated regularly. The state department has also issued guidance against cruises, at least as we have seen hundreds of cases of COVID19 related to cruise ships and infections associated with that.
And with that, I will turn it over to Secretary HOU and I will return at the end for questions through the chat line.
GRACE HOU: Good morning, everyone. This is Grace Hou, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services. If you could please be reminded to mute your phones. There are probably almost 1,000 people on the call so we want to make sure that everybody can be heard. So thank you, Director Ezike. This is an unsettling time for everyone and a lot of information to take in as an individual and as a leader or a staff person at your community agency. I think what we really want you to know is that we at the Department of Human Services and with our partner agencies here in the Health and Human Services portfolio, we are working together as a team to ensure the health and safety of all Illinois resident, and specifically at the Illinois Department of Human Services. Obviously, our staff, the staff of the community agencies, and those who we collectively serve in our offices, community centers, hospitals, community 24/7 setting, SODCs, et cetera. We together reach every corner of this state at our resident's most time of need. So your work with us to serve people at every stage in every part of our state is exactly what we all need right now.
You know the work on this situation is ongoing, obviously, and will continue. We learn something new every hour, every day. Our team at the Department of Human Services is focused on making sure every DHS facility office as well as community provider is safe as possible. We are working and trying to provide ongoing guidance for our community partners in talking with you to make sure that you have the direction that you need. I know that there are many, many, many more questions. We had sent a message last week with some preliminary guidance. We sent additional guidance yesterday and then you will also be receiving, if you are a community provider of the Department of Human Services, specific guidance from your program divisions as well. So what we have done at the Department of Human Services is we formed three working groups to continue to monitor the new information. As you know or as you may know the Department of Human Services provides services with its community partners in three primary setting types. One is 24/7. We together run hospitals and long-term care facilities for people with mental illness as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities. The second setting ourcommunity centers, local offices, and other administrative that are public facing offices. That is our second work group. Our third work group pertains to the state staff as well as community staff who are entering homes of our clients, resident, and patients. The third work group is our home based providers. We are providing preliminary guidance and ongoing guidance under those three settings moving forward. I think it is important to know --that our systems are just kind of bouncing back from the crisis of the state a couple years ago and that we turn over every stone and how we might ease requirements to make sure of that.
You are the helpers in Illinois and the people others turn to in times of need. You can send your questions to -- outside of this conference call if you have questions this weekend or next week you can send emails to email@example.com. Obviously, if you have a question thank you so much. I will turn it over to Director Smith.
MARC SMITH: I would like to start off with thanking our partners at the state including the governor's office and the Department of Public Health with their support framing and thoughtfulness about how we continue to support the children and families of which we serve.
I appreciate everybody joining our phone call today. I think our communication is the key to us all being successful partners caring for all of our children and families who we have taken on the pleasure of caring for. Encouraging them to maintain their connection with their case management team in the private and public sector and to be aware how to address any health issues as they occur. We have also worked to.
We have started our process of reaching out to our private partners for child care institutions, group homes and child welfare agencies to request planning around addressing issues as they come up from staffing issues to issues in their physical plants as well as any case management and contact issues. We have given some guidance around what our expectations of a plan would look like. We will continue to provide guidance to our community partners in writing to ensure we are thinking and moving in the same direction. We have contingency plans to support each other across the state and we are ensuring that we have an open communication to make sure that as issues occur, we can give the full support of the State of Illinois to our private sector partners as well as encouraging our private sector partners to support each other.
I would like to say that I really think it has been a pleasure working with our partners and I know that together we.
Director Basta, did you want to share anything before we move into questions?
PAULA BASTA: Thank you, Secretary Hou. This is Paula Basta with the Illinois Department on Aging. I wanted to ditto the remarks everyone has made. We are all together working very, very hard and diligently and continue to talk to all of you the wonderful providers you are on the great service you give to our most vulnerable people so we continue to be your partners as well. Please let us know what we can do to help you. Thank you.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you. We will begin questions and answers.
RYAN CROKE: The first question is from Jill. Do you recommend a self-quarantine period for employees who travel for vacation to highly-populated places such as Las Vegas upon their return? Dr. Ezike or Secretary Grace or Director Smith, can you hear us? If not, that's okay.
PAULA BASTA: Ryan, this is Paula. Can you hear me?
RYAN CROKE: I can hear you loud and clear, thank you. We have a number of questions that are really geared at public health and Dr. Ezike. Are you there?
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: Yes.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you.
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: The guidance will continually evolve about the propensity infection at certain places. If they know they were exposed to a case, yes, absolutely self isolation for 14 days. In the absence of symptoms, there would not be an indication to self isolate before just because of return from Las Vegas but that's a very important question. Thank you.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you very much, doctor. A question for Secretary Hou from Michael. Is there guidance for providers of DD adult day services or in-home support services that goes beyond heightened hygiene practices?
GRACE HOU: Yes, thank you, Michael. We have been talking with the Director for the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and she is finalizing a DD specific guidance that will be going out to the DD providers I would say later this afternoon. If you don't receive it, we are also building a web page on the Department of Human Services web site that will have the information that we are sending out to community providers posted after they are sent out.
That's in the stages of being built. But Michael and other DD providers, yes, you will be getting specific guidance as it relates to day programs, CILAs, et cetera. Thank you for that question.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you, Secretary. The next question is directed at Dr. Ezike. Are there specific guidelines for nursing homes about visitors? That question comes from Lisa.
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: Thank you, Lisa, for that question. Yes, we have had two webinars and calls this week specifically recommending our increased guidance on nursing homes.
In an effort to try to protect those individuals, we have asked all nursing homes to limit visitation to only those residents that are end of life and those who may be in a situation where their dementia requires an assistance from a family member who allows them to be more functional. And even in those situations we recommend only one visitor per day, and those visitors still need to undergo screening before entrance to ensure that they haven't recently returned from a cruise or from Italy, that they don't have a fever, that they are not on the list of individuals who have been asked to self -isolate. That they haven't been in contact with a recently confirmed case. So those restrictions are supposed to be in please effective immediately. We're also screening all -- we want all staff at the beginning of their shift, pre-shift assessment to ensure that the staff coming to work every day is fever free and not having any symptoms of cough or respiratory illness. We don't want staff being ill caring for most vulnerable population. For staff, visitors, vendors, we don't want children's groups coming in to sing or perform. No visitors under 18. So we have that guidance. It should be on our website and thank you for asking that question. We absolutely want everyone to be aware of the heightened recommendations for our nursing homes. Thank you.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you, Dr. Ezike. We only have time for a few more questions but please do continue to post them, and we will do our best to share answers with the call's participants.
The next question comes from Amanda Powell again a question for Dr. Ezike. What is the recommended time frame that a person should be at home if they think that they are ill?
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: I will talk about it in two cases. I guess someone who was an actual confirmed case, they would have ongoing communication with the local health department and we would give guidance on when they could come out of isolation. So for people who are ill, once the fever is resolved and there are no further symptoms, we recommend 48 hours of no fever and symptom free before returning to the general population.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you, Dr. Ezike. One more for you if that's okay. This question is from Mary Andrews and the question is: are there actually COVID19 test kits? We have individuals calls us from the community who have gone to urgent care centers and there are no kits to test for the virus there.
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: Thank you for that question. We definitely have the ability to test for COVID-19 at the state public health labs. There are three state public health labs. One in Chicago, one in Springfield, and one in Carbondale. But the testing is done, which is a nose swab or a throat swab. That is done -- that can be done in urgent care centers or in hospitals or potentially in the doctor's office. But those specimens are sent to the state lab. I do know that there are some hospitals in the community that have developed their own test, and so that is not every facility. Let me review the process for being tested for COVID-19 through the public health lab. Because of the supply that we have and the instructions on guidance for from the CDC, we are prioritizing testing those who have had direct contact with a case or who have come immediately -- recently within the last 14 days from a high-risk area. One of the hot beds, if you will. If they have that history and they also are presenting with fever or cough, respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath, some kind of pulmonary symptoms, then that would definitely qualify to be tested at our lab. The actual testing of the patient does not happen at our lab. It happens at the doctor's office but then those specimens will receive a special identification number after calling the local health department. The local health department will notify the state health department that this person is an official person under investigation. That specimen will be sent to our lab where it will then be processed. And if there is a positive result, we will notify the local health departments and the local health department will notify the provider of the positive test. And from that point the individual who tested positive would be extensively interviewed to then identify other persons that they may have come in contact with. So that's the process. Testing doesn't happen on-site at our public health lab. It still happens between the patients and their provider. But the specimens would then get sent to the public health lab where the testing is. As commercial labs start getting the test and they think they are slowly starting to have that ability, more people will be tested. It will unfold I think in the coming days and weeks. We will try to get information out as we identify the available places that now have commercially available testing, but I think those numbers will start to increase as more places develop their own tests and some of the lab companies develop that ability as well. So we will find a way to get that information on to our website so people know where they can pursue that. Thank you.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you so much, Dr. Ezike. Here is a question for Director Basta from the Department on Aging from Tonya. Tonya's question reads, Illinois Department on Aging care coordinators conduct assessments for clients in home, hospitals, and facilities. Can these assessments be conducted via phone to protect the associate and the client?
PAULA BASTA: Thank you, Tonya, for that very good question. We are working with our CCUs right now and also have put together and are following our sister agency's DHS's screening tool that we will be using that we will ask our CCUs and our in--home providers to do a screening before they would even enter the home so that no one will be at risk. Obviously, we don't want the seniors that we care for be at risk, but we also do not want any of the workers to be at risk that go into the home. So we are developing a tool right now that you -- that the CCUs will be using, so they will be screened before a visit -- a home visit would even be done.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you so much, Director Basta. The next question comes from Jill Eid and it reads should organizations with public events of a thousand or more people consider canceling those events if they fall in early May? Dr. Ezike, could you address that question?
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: Yeah, that's a great question. We are in a situation where things are evolving hour-to-hour. So the recommendations that were put out yesterday spoke to May 1. It is a little bit soon now to know exactly where we will be May 2. So potentially they have to extend versus -- again, I can't speak definitively on events after May at this time. I know that is not helpful but again just not knowing what's around the bend. It is impossible to predict where we will be at that time.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you very much. We have time for one more question. And again continue post questions and we will do our best to also provide answers going forward.
This question again from Dr. Ezike comes from Lisa and the question reads, what happens in senior living or nursing homes if a resident tests positive? What are the next steps for the rest of the residents?
DR. NGOZI EZIKE: In that unfortunate situation we would be working with -- the nursing home would be working with the local health departments. Of course, the first priority would be to make sure that that resident is appropriately transferred to a facility, is where they can get the.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you again, Dr. Ezike and all of the directors on the call. It is now 12:15. Are there any closing thoughts before we close out the line?
GRACE HOU: No. Thank you, Ryan, for moderating and thank you everyone on the call and our sister agency directors. We apologize for the technological snafus. I imagine our different agencies will continue to keep all of you up-to-date. We may contemplate trying to have ongoing discussion in potentially a more seamless format. Please do reach out. Communication is key. We appreciate your time today and thank you very much.
RYAN CROKE: Thank you. Everybody have a wonderful day and we will continue to remain in communication.