Happy Friday! Safe travels to those that may be venturing out on vacation next week (or as early as today) or the week after. Today’s update talks about action on the state level to hold back a covid resurgence, reviews President Joe Biden’s first press conference yesterday, the eventual path to higher corporate taxes, the passage of a massive health care bill in Illinois, and the veto of a bill by Governor Pritzker.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Illinois Taking Aggressive Action to Address First Signs of Possible Resurgence
To address a concerning possible trend in increasing COVID hospitalizations and case rates, the State of Illinois is launching Rapid Response Vaccination Teams to five counties and expanding vaccine eligibility where demand appears to have waned.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has seen vaccine demand slow in several counties throughout the state, with early signs of unfilled appointments and increased vaccine inventory. IDPH is authorizing those communities to begin vaccinating all residents 16 and older at their immediate discretion, in order to use the vaccine doses they currently have available.
“Recent increases in hospital admissions and test positivity are concerning new developments and we don’t want to go down the same path we’ve seen before and experience a resurgence in the pandemic, which is why Governor Pritzker directed us to use all our resources to halt these upticks,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We cannot move forward if our metrics are going backward. The vaccine will help get us to the end of the pandemic, but we need to continue to reduce spread of the virus by wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds, keeping six feet of distance, getting tested after seeing others, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The federal government is projecting that Illinois will receive nearly 1 million doses next week for distribution, an all-time high. Steady vaccination operations are the best tool to keep Illinois residents safe. Reductions in demand result in inventory that could be unused, and all inventory should be used as quickly as possible to protect residents. Residents should contact their local health department to learn whether they have expanded eligibility.
“The number one goal for the state is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly and safely as possible in order to stay ahead of variants,” Dr. Ezike said. “This shift is similar to what we saw when expanding vaccine eligibility from Phase 1B to Phase 1B+ where some parts of the state were ready to move forward, while others were not. Each county is different and local health departments know better how to vaccinate people in their communities as soon as and as equitably as possible.”
While all communities will continue to receive their baseline allocation of doses, new doses above that baseline will be allocated to high-demand areas where at-risk eligible residents face long waits for appointments.
Rapid Response Vaccination Teams
To bend the trend in a region seeing increased vulnerability and protect vulnerable residents, several teams are being deployed for rapid operations.
Mobile rapid response vaccination teams will deploy over the next two weeks in five counties in Region 1 where IDPH epidemiologists have determined there is a need to administer doses quickly to blunt increasing trends. These doses are on top of the allocation to the local health departments. These mobile teams will be providing single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to county residents. Appointments will be coordinated by the local health department.
Bridge Phase Update
Since March 8, Illinois has seen 10 days of increases in the seven-day rolling average for hospital admissions. The COVID-19 test positivity on March 10 was 2.5%. Today’s reported test positivity is 3.3%. While these rates are certainly significantly lower than the peak, they represent a potential early warning sign about a possible resurgence.
Chicago has seen its daily case rate increase by nearly 50% since last week, along with six days of increases in test positivity. Suburban Cook County has seen its daily case rate increase more than 40%, along with nine days of increasing hospital bed usage. Region 1, the Northern portion of the state including Rockford and surrounding communities, has seen eight days of increasing hospital bed usage and six days of increasing test positivity.
To advance into the Bridge Phase that is the final step before the full reopening, the entire state must achieve several metrics:
• 70% of residents 65 years and older must have received a first dose;
• Hospitals must maintain 20% or greater ICU bed availability;
• Hospitalizations for COVID-19, admissions for COVID-like illness and deaths must hold steady or decline over a 28-day monitoring period.
As outlined in the March 18 update to the Restore Illinois plan, IDPH will evaluate statewide performance against the metrics by looking back at the data from the preceding 28 days. While Illinois is on pace to reach 70% first doses for residents 65 years and older in the coming days, IDPH is monitoring an increase in new hospital admissions for COVID, which will need to be appropriately addressed and resolved before moving into the Bridge Phase. IDPH epidemiologists will continue to focus on the most recent 10 days to monitor any acute trends that prevent the state from reaching the Bridge Phase.
Statewide reopening metrics can be found at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/statewidemetrics.
Information regarding vaccination locations as well as details on how to book an appointment to receive the vaccine can be found at the state’s COVID website, coronavirus.illinois.gov. Residents who don’t have access to or need assistance navigating online services can call the toll-free IDPH hotline at 833-621-1284 to book an appointment. The hotline is open 7 days a week from 6am to midnight with agents available in English and Spanish.
President Biden’s First Press Conference: The Moments That Mattered
President Biden’s first news conference in office covered key issues facing his administration, including the surge of migrants at the southern border and the future of the filibuster as well as his new Covid-19 vaccination pledge. Here are some key moments from the event:
A new vaccine goal
Mr. Biden announced a new target for coronavirus vaccinations: to hit 200 million doses during his first 100 days in office. His news conference came on his 65th day as president. “I know it’s ambitious—twice our original goal—but no other country in the world has even come close, not even close, to what we are doing,” Mr. Biden said. “I believe we can do it.”
The president last week hit his previous goal of administering 100 million doses during his first hundred days in office. The pace of vaccinations is now 2.5 million doses a day on average. The U.S. was already delivering about one million doses a day when Mr. Biden took office.
The higher target comes as the U.S. is expected to have enough vaccine doses to cover the eligible U.S. population by the end of May. But concern is rising over new variants of the virus, which could require booster shots.
Under pressure over the flow of migrants to the southern U.S. border, Mr. Biden took aim at his predecessor, saying that President Donald Trump eliminated funding and resources for the border. “What we’re doing now is attempting to rebuild,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re building up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon, that Trump dismantled. It’s going to take time.”
Trump administration officials have said their immigration policies were effective at deterring more migrants from coming, and that they warned the incoming administration that Mr. Biden’s policies would lead to a surge at the border.
Unaccompanied minors are crossing illegally each day in record numbers, with total crossings this year on pace to hit a two-decade high. Facing growing bipartisan pressure, the administration is ramping up its diplomatic efforts and racing to find more shelter space to house children as it tries to tackle the surge of asylum seekers without adopting the aggressive deterrence strategies of previous administrations.
The filibuster’s future
Mr. Biden suggested again that he is open to changing the filibuster, saying the tactic is currently being “abused in a gigantic way” in the Senate. The chamber is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break ties. Some Democrats have argued for changing the rules that require 60 votes to advance most legislation, known as the filibuster, to pass bills on issues like voting rights and gun control. But the party is shy of the 51 votes needed to eliminate the filibuster.
Mr. Biden repeated his support for bringing back a requirement that senators must be present and talking on the floor to block bills, saying that it used to be that you had to stand and “talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed.”
But he also said that he has an “open mind about dealing with certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote.” And he concluded: “If there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about.”
Asked whether he agreed with former President Barack Obama’s description of the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic,” Mr. Biden said yes, but added that “successful electoral politics is the art of the possible.”
“Let’s figure out how we can get this done and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of the filibuster rule first,” he said.
A slipping Afghanistan deadline
Mr. Biden said it would be hard to meet a May 1 deadline for U.S. troops to depart Afghanistan, set under the Trump administration as part of talks with leaders of the insurgent Taliban movement. There are at least 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 6,500 NATO troops, and allies have said they would depend on U.S. logistical support to withdraw personnel.
“It is not my intention to stay there for a long time, but the question is how and under what circumstances do we meet that agreement,” Mr. Biden said. “We will leave, the question is when we leave.” Asked if it’s possible there could be troops there next year, he said, “I can’t picture that being the case.”
Competition with China
Mr. Biden detailed the shifting dynamic between the U.S. and China, framing it as a contest between autocracy and democracy. He discussed a growing consensus among democratic allies that China, often through autocratic rule or unfair trade practices, is violating democratic norms and must be held accountable.
“I see stiff competition with China,” he said, adding that Beijing wants to be the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world and that it is up to the U.S. to top it. “China has an overall goal—and I don’t criticize them for the goal,” Mr. Biden said. In discussions with allies, he said the view is that “in order to deal with these things, we’re going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, whether it relates to the South China Sea, North China Sea, agreement made on Taiwan or a whole range of things.”
The president declined to say whether he would reverse the heavy tariffs Mr. Trump imposed on China, and he didn’t speak in detail about his broader strategy beyond saying that the U.S. sought competition and would work to strengthen American industries.
North Korea warning
Mr. Biden said that he believes North Korea poses the biggest foreign-policy threat to the U.S. and warned that his administration “will respond accordingly” if Kim Jong Un takes actions to heighten tensions further.
His comments follow a week of active missile launches by North Korea, including one on Wednesday that experts said likely involved short-range ballistic missiles, a violation of a U.N. Security Council Resolution restricting ballistic missile activities.
Asked whether he agrees with the assessment Mr. Obama offered to his successor, Mr. Trump, that North Korea presents the nation’s top foreign-policy threat, Mr. Biden answered, simply, “Yes.” He said his administration is consulting with allies and partners and added that “there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly.”
However, he opened the door to talks. “I am also prepared for some form of diplomacy,” he told reporters. “But it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization. So that’s what we are doing now, consulting with our allies.”
Mr. Biden, who is 78 years old, said his expectation is that he would run for re-election in 2024. Pressed on his plans, he said that he had never been able to plan years out and called himself a “great respecter of fate.” He said he fully expected that Ms. Harris would be his running mate, calling her a “great partner.”
Asked if he thought he’d be running for a second time against Mr. Trump, who is 74, Mr. Biden responded: “Oh come on,” he said. “I have no idea.”
Plans for Higher Corporate Taxes
Democrats in Congress began building the policy case for sharp corporate-tax increases, arguing that Republicans went too far with their 2017 tax cuts.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) will soon release a more detailed framework for how multinational corporations should be taxed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Budget Committee chairman, released a plan Thursday that would raise $1 trillion over a decade. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said she is writing legislation to impose a minimum tax on profitable companies. Versions of some of those ideas are expected to appear in the tax-and-spending agenda that President Biden will unveil next week, and Congress is poised to act on them this year to help pay for infrastructure spending.
In all, Democrats are planning significant reversals of the 2017 tax law signed by then-President Donald Trump, though they aren’t calling for returning to the previous status quo. They are particularly eyeing features of the law that they say give companies incentives to move activity outside the U.S. “There’s a lot of clarity today on some of these areas where the Trump law sold out the workers and in fact made us less competitive in the world,” Mr. Wyden said as he concluded a hearing.
There are countervailing incentives in the law, and it is far from clear that companies have actually moved production outside the U.S. for tax reasons in the past three years. Some companies have brought intellectual property to the U.S., and corporate choices often have nontax purposes.
If Democrats can maneuver their changes through Congress using their slim majorities, U.S.-based companies would likely pay more on their overseas operations and on their domestic profits. Republicans, pointing to wage growth and low unemployment before the coronavirus pandemic hit, say their tax law contributed to that growth.
Before 2017, the U.S. had the highest statutory corporate tax rate among major economies at 35% plus state taxes, and there was a bipartisan consensus for lowering that. In addition, the prior international tax system encouraged companies to book profits abroad and leave them there.
The 2017 law lowered that rate to 21% and rewrote the international tax rules. Now, companies operating in low-tax foreign jurisdictions must pay a minimum tax to the U.S.
Democrats contend that the structure of that minimum tax encourages U.S. companies to invest abroad instead of at home. Companies calculate their tangible foreign property—including factories—and can exempt an amount equal to 10% from their minimum tax calculations.
If the U.S. went back to 28%, it would once again have the highest corporate tax rate among major economies after including state taxes, said Pam Olson, who was the top Treasury Department tax official under President George W. Bush. “That’s a place that I don’t think we want to occupy,” she said.
Health Care Reform Bill Passes Senate, Now Needs Governor Signature
A massive health care reform bill, the fourth and final pillar of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus agenda, passed the state Senate Thursday, the final step before heading to Gov. JB Pritzker for his signature.
House Bill 158, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Camille Lilly and state Sen. Mattie Hunter, both of Chicago, is centered around eliminating race-based and other inequities in the state’s health care system, and includes provisions to expand medical services available to low-income residents and residents of color.
Specifically, HB158 addresses access to health care, hospital closures, managed care organization reform, community health worker certification and reimbursement, maternal and infant mortality, mental and substance abuse treatment, and medical implicit bias.
The bill passed on a 41-16 vote after revisions to the original version, which failed to pass in January’s lame duck session. The new version eliminated provisions that would have replaced the state’s Medicaid managed care program with a standard fee-for-service payment system. Managed care, which is a system of private insurance companies hired by the state to manage Medicaid, is how a majority of the state’s residents on Medicaid are enrolled in the program.
A last-minute amendment, which enhanced dementia training requirements for the Illinois Department on Aging, was also added before the bill went for a full vote in the House last week. It passed the House with a 72-41 vote. Most of the items included in the bill are subject to state appropriation, meaning future General Assemblies will have to decide whether to allocate the money to fund them.
House and Senate Republicans shared concerns about the total cost of implementing this legislation. In the Senate floor debate, Republican Sen. Steve McClure, of Springfield, said he doesn’t believe the state can afford to implement all the provisions in the bill.
“The fiscal impact of $12 billion would represent almost 30 percent of the Governor’s proposed fiscal year 2022 general funds budget, which is $41.6 billion,” McClure said. “We just can’t afford it and that’s really what it comes down to. And the $7.5 billion from the recent stimulus is going to help us quite a bit, but we’re still in very rough financial shape right now.”
Another significant provision in the bill would put a halt on hospital closures for up to 60 days after the effective date of the act, which is an effort to prevent hospital closures in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. Closures are also deferred until either the state or U.S. are no longer under disaster declaration or public health emergency.
“In the last year, we’ve seen thousands of deaths due to COVID-19. We’ve also seen how racism has intensified the effects of this pandemic on Black Illinoisans, and it’s time to take action against the factors that led us here,” Sen. Hunter said in a news release. “This groundbreaking initiative will give everyone the opportunity to receive equitable, patient-centered care, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.”
HB 158 would also create a Health and Human Services Taskforce and an Anti-Racism Commission to make recommendations for tangible solutions to be enacted by hospitals, health care organizations and the General Assembly as the conversation and analysis of racial inequities in the health care system continue.
HB 158 needs only the governor’s signature to become law after it passed both the House and Senate. It’s the final of four pillars of the ILBC’s legislative agenda introduced last year.
The other pillars of the ILBC agenda, which address economic equity, public safety, and education, were also introduced in January’s lame duck session. These three pillars passed out of the lame duck session and have all been signed into law by the governor.
Governor Pritzker Vetoes Pre-Judgement Interest Bill
Here is the full text from the action that the Governor took yesterday to veto HB 3360 which would have allowed plaintiffs to collect pre-judgment interest on personal injury and wrongful death claims.
To the Honorable Members of The Illinois House of Representatives, 102nd General Assembly:
Today I veto House Bill 3360 from the 101st General Assembly, which provides for the
recovery of prejudgment interest on all damages set forth in a judgment in any action brought
to recover damages for personal injuries or wrongful death, whether by negligence, willful
and wanton misconduct, intentional conduct, or strict liability of the other person or entity.
HB 3360 would be effective immediately.
While I support joining the majority of states that allow prejudgment interest in personal
injury cases in order to encourage their prompt resolution, the provisions of HB 3360 would
be burdensome for hospitals and medical professionals beyond the national norm, potentially
driving up healthcare costs for patients and deterring physicians from practicing in Illinois.
The majority of Illinois hospitals are self-insured, and, as a result, would be required to pay
the costs of this legislation directly, at a time when they can least afford this added expense.
HB 3360 imposes a rate of 9% per annum prejudgment interest, which would begin to accrue
on the date the defendant has notice of the injury. Even states with prejudgment interest,
such as Michigan or Wisconsin, provide a more reasonable rate structure by tying the interest
rate to market conditions such as the federal prime rate, as opposed to a flat rate. The
proposed 9% flat rate is higher than many of these market-based rates adopted by other
states, even when accounting for additional percentages that many states add to the market-based rates as part of the calculation of prejudgment interest. Because many businesses have
been severely and negatively affected by today’s economic climate, 9% interest is high and
tying to market conditions would be less onerous. A 9% rate could similarly be damaging to
entities like hospitals.
Further, HB 3360 would allow for prejudgment interest to be calculated on non-economic
damages such as pain and suffering and loss of normal life. Again, when we compare this
legislation to states that have prejudgment interest, many of them exclude non-economic
damages from the calculation. For example, the prejudgment interest statutes in
Massachusetts and Minnesota limit the application of prejudgment interest in personal injury
cases to pecuniary damages. Minnesota law explicitly excludes future, punitive or
non compensatory damages.
While I appreciate the hard work of the House and Senate sponsors of the bill and their
commitment to advocate for injured Illinoisans, HB 3360 simply didn’t receive sufficient input
from some of the most impacted parties, including health care providers. At a time when the
health care industry and the medical professionals who have dedicated their lives over the
past year to combating a deadly virus are in need of support, I cannot in good conscience sign
a bill that would place these individuals and entities in further financial distress.
I have urged the sponsors to return to negotiate a compromise that includes stronger
protections for health care providers while encouraging the faster resolution of these cases
that can leave families devastated for years. It is in the best interest of all Illinoisans for this
issue to be fully negotiated with an opportunity to for input from all stakeholders, advocates,
and other interested parties.
I understand that this compromise legislation is now advancing through the General
Assembly with these suggested changes and additional feedback from stakeholders.
Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby
return House Bill 3360, entitled “AN ACT concerning civil law,” with the foregoing objections,
vetoed in its entirety.
Program Notices & Reminders
Hollywood Casino Joliet Partnering with Illinois Dept. of Public Health to Host Covid Mobile Testing Program
Hollywood Casino Joliet announced that it is partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) to host a COVID-19 mobile testing program in the casino’s parking lot.
“We are incredibly proud to be partnering with the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide our parking lot as a COVID-19 testing site to help fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Lydia Garvey, Vice President and General Manager at Hollywood Casino Joliet. “Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our community as we all work together towards ending the pandemic.”
The IDPH’s mobile testing program in Hollywood Casino’s parking lot will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm on March 27 and April 3. Individuals seeking COVID-19
tests will not need a photo ID nor need to be showing signs of symptoms to receive a test. The
mobile testing program accepts insurance, however an insurance card is not necessary to be
tested. For the uninsured or if insurance does not cover the cost of the test, the state of Illinois will cover the cost.
The COVID-19 mobile testing program will use anterior nares swabs to test patients, with specimens being shipped to a lab to run on a polymerase chain reaction (“PCR”) testing machine which makes it possible to detect COVID-19 with a very high degree of accuracy. Individuals tested will receive a phone call between 4-7 days from the date of their test from the number 888-297-7208. Patients who miss the call will be requested to call back in order to receive results as they cannot be left via voicemail.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Joliet Junior College
Here are our upcoming no-cost webinars:
Social Media – Stop Posting! Start Marketing (with Joe Sanders) on April 1 at 11am
Are you taking advantage of the opportunities and changes in Social Media? Learn the five-step process: Find the Right Audience; Create the Right Content; Promote Your Business as a Brand; Use Ample Resources; and Analyze the Results. Digital Marketing expert, podcast host and author Joe Sanders, from Relevant Elephant, will share a powerful overview of how to improve your social media strategy and WHY you need to take action.
Social Media – Stop Posting! Start Marketing! (with Joe Sanders) (ecenterdirect.com)
Video Marketing for Small Business (with Mike at Acclaim Media) on April 8 at 11am
Video production once meant bringing in a full production crew to produce a television commercial. Now, a child can produce a quality video on their phone. And that video is a very important component to your website, social media pages, product information, as well as your local advertising. Learn the benefits of video marketing and hear from Mike Poglitsch at Acclaim Media about how easy the process can be.
Video Marketing for Small Business (ecenterdirect.com)
Funding Your Business (with Nancy Kuzma) on April 14th at 2pm
Funding your business is critical for start-ups as well as companies who are looking to expand. Establishing business credit is the first step. Get a basic understanding of what banks look for to qualify for a loan from Nancy Kuzma of Old Plank Trail Community Bank/Wintrust Community Bank.
Funding Your Business Webinar (ecenterdirect.com)
Government Certification Process (with Rita Haake at COD) on April 27th at 1pm
Certifications: Interpreting the alphabet to pursue profits! Which small business certification is the best one for you?
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• State: DBE, FBE, FMBE, MBE, PBE, VBE
• Local: DBE, MBE, WBE, VBE
You will learn the details of the application process, documentation requirements, certification options, and how to market and leverage certifications for the growth of your business.
Webinar: The Certification Process (ecenterdirect.com)
Illinois Department of Transportation
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting free virtual workshops in February as part of its Building Blocks of Success series for firms interested in participating in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program strengthening their skills and bidding on state projects. The workshops are open to all, but some are tailored to specific districts/regions of the state.
The workshop dates and topics are:
• March 29: Quick Books Part 1, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 30: Quick Books Part 2, 10 a.m. to noon
• March 31: Quick Books Part 3, 10 a.m. to noon
Building Blocks of Success will be conducted through April. Workshop information, including dates and times, will be made available through Eventbrite at bit.ly/DBEworkshops. Advance registration is required. Questions can be directed to the DBE resource center at (312) 939-1100.
Finally, for those residing in the City of Joliet, here is the link to view the answers to our city council candidate questionnaire and here is the link to view our recent in person candidate forum. Remember that in person voting takes place on Tuesday, April 6 and view www.thewillcountyclerk.com for information pertaining to deadlines for vote by mail ballots and early voting locations.
Also, here is the link to the recording of our State of the City address with Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk. https://youtu.be/XTVw2e-DJKk
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry