Near the end of the COVID-19 press conference Friday afternoon, after Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced that schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year, something honest happened.
The moment comes during part of the meeting when press members are allowed to ask only one question per media outlet.
“What are you doing both physically and emotionally? Is holding this daily update easier?” a reporter from the Illinois Capitol News asked Pritzker and Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
“Well, that’s great, no one ever asked that question,” said Pritzker eagerly.
He chuckled and Ezike, the speakers and other reporters all began laughing at what seemed like the release of tension that had been built since the pandemic was a daily concern for the people of Illinois.
“I manage this time pretty well,” he said, wavering when he tried to tell me how he felt emotionally. “When I wake up in the morning and I see the numbers … when we have a day like yesterday, it’s hard not to disappoint you.”
He stepped back and let Ezike forward.
“I can’t complain, I get a day off like you,” he said, laughing.
“We are called into our role for a time like this,” he said. “I am honored to be in this position to try to help people in this state and I think I have found the strength that I need to continue.”
Ezike described the COVID-19 pandemic as war and said he felt it was his duty to help Illinois residents understand the enemy better and help them understand that this would be a long war.
Earlier at a press conference, a reporter asked how could Pritzker and Ezike say the country was “bending the curve” of coronavirus cases when Friday marked the highest one-day increase in cases to date with 1,842?
“Remember, the case depends on how many people were tested that day,” Governor Pritzker said in response. “[Friday] is our second highest day for testing, we have 7,300 tests coming back [on Friday]. “
The number of hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 and the use of ICU beds are better indicators of how this country responds to the virus, he said.
“We are following the trend for a lot of data,” Ezike said. “All these numbers help us to make judgments and determinations. Obviously, we don’t think we are at our peak, so, given that, we do indeed expect cases to increase.”
He went on to explain that while leveling the curve had prevented COVID-19 cases from flooding the country’s health system, it also meant that it would take longer to reach the highest peaks and lowest valleys in new cases.
“One of the byproducts of flattening curves is that you will delay the peak and maybe it’s not the peak … but, maybe, if I could use the term plateau where you are slightly flattened for a while,” Ezike said, using his arm to to show.
IDPH has analyzed daily and weekly trends for a number of different COVID-19 metrics, the most inaccurate of which is the number of cases confirmed by the country.
“We all know that throughout the country, very few people have been tested,” Pritzker said.
By Friday night, Illinois had conducted a total of 130,163 COVID-19 tests, according to IDPH.
“We continue to increase the number of our tests so that if the denominator, if you want, of the total number of people tested increases, we will see a higher number,” Ezike said. “I don’t think we have peaked yet.”