CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker sounded alarm bells Wednesday about a resurgence of coronavirus in Illinois, saying the rise in cases here is “very concerning.”
For several weeks, Illinois has seen small increases in the average number of new cases per day. The state reported 1,598 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, the highest since early June. Coronavirus also killed another 23 people in Illinois during the last day.
Pritzker said that gradual rise can quickly turn into exponential increase of coronavirus, like what Illinois saw during the peak of the pandemic in the spring. It wouldn’t “take long to reverse all of our gains,” the governor said.
“Our numbers now appear to be gradually rising, and that’s very concerning,” Pritzker said during a press conference. “There are those who mistakenly think, ‘No problem. You can’t eradicate the virus, and our numbers are so low we don’t need to do anything about it.’
“To them I would say: In every one of the states like Arizona and Florida that are in full-blown crisis right now, it started with a gradual rise in the numbers.”
The state’s positivity rate has hovered around 3 percent for weeks, but it’s slowly increased and hit 3.2 percent Wednesday.
With the state doing more testing during that period, that positivity rate should have dropped, said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. The growth shows Illinois is seeing increased transmission of the virus, she said.
Some of the rise was predictable because Illinois started opening up more as it moves into Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the state recovery plan, Ezike said.
But Pritzker said just opening up didn’t mean there had to be an increase in cases — what’s causing the increase is “opening up and having people not abide by the rules.”
“You can go from 3 percent positivity to Arizona’s 25 percent positivity in the blink of an eye,” Pritzker said. “We’ve been there. Let’s not let that happen again.”
Everyone should be wearing masks in public if they are able to do so, as they drastically cut down on transmission of coronavirus, the officials said.
Mask-wearing should not be politicized, Pritzker and Ezike said, and not wearing masks and not social distancing will certainly lead to Illinois seeing more cases and having to take steps back.
“If you’re not wearing a mask in public, you’re endangering everyone around you, so the enemy is you,” Pritzker said.
Everyone should still practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently, Ezike said. She said businesses should also require customers to keep 6 feet apart and wear face coverings.
“This is not about restricting freedom; this is about decreasing the transmission of this virus, which ultimately saves lives,” Ezike said. “It’s that plain and that simple. This is about your actions and what you can do to keep your community safe.”
People should also demand their local leaders take action to enforce coronavirus guidelines and protect people so their community doesn’t have to take steps back in the recovery plan, Pritzker said.
Every part of Illinois is seeing an increase in cases, but the Metro East region in southwestern Illinois has been hit particularly bad and is coming dangerously close to getting new restrictions, Pritzker said.
Chicago officials have also recently warned the city is seeing an increase in cases, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot saying she will bring back restrictions if cases and the positivity rate continue to climb here.
Just Monday, the city announced it is ending indoor service for bars that don’t serve food to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
Most new cases here and throughout the state have been seen among people age 18-29 and 30-39. Officials have urged young people to stop gathering in large groups and to take safety precautions seriously.
In all, Illinois has now seen 7,347 people die from coronavirus and 165,301 confirmed cases.
As of Tuesday night, 1,456 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 337 people in the ICU and 132 people using ventilators.
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