CHICAGO — Tighter restrictions could soon be coming to Illinois as the state sees skyrocketing positivity rates, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday.
No stay at home order is being considered for now, Pritzker said at a Thursday news conference, but the Illinois Department of Public Health is looking at what further mitigations it can impose to try to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The governor provided few details on what those restrictions could look like, though.
Thursday saw Illinois report 97 deaths from COVID-19, the most in a single day since June and enough to push the state’s official death toll past 10,000. The same day also saw a record-breaking 9,935 confirmed cases reported.
But it’s not just those metrics that have Pritzker wary, he said: Hospitalizations have gone up 120 percent since the start of October, and officials are beginning to worry they might not have a hospital bed for everyone who needs one in the near future unless Illinois can get its outbreak under control.
COVID-positive ICU patients and the number of COVID-positive people using ventilators have more than doubled in the past month, too, Pritzker said.
If people don’t change their behaviors, “We are going to experience a surge in hospitalizations much higher than where we are now,” Pritzker said. “And in some areas of our state, that will mean you run out of hospital beds and nurses and doctors who can treat you.
“We have to get these rates of community transmission down.”
Every region of Illinois is already under “enhanced mitigations,” as Pritzker has called them. Those mitigations are split into three tiers; a region starts at Tier 1 and, if its outbreak worsens, progresses to the other tiers.
Under Tier 1 — which Chicago and most other regions are under — indoor service at bars and restaurants is banned and there’s a tighter cap on gathering sizes.
Under Tier 2 — which only Region 1, northern Illinois, is under — other industries face restrictions. Offices are supposed to have employees work from home where possible and gyms have to keep groups limited to 10 people or fewer, for example.
Under Tier 3, hospitals have to suspend elective surgeries and procedures, there are strict limits on gathering sizes, all non-essential retail has to stop in-person service and salons have to stop working.
The mitigations have worked in the past, bringing down spread in regions earlier in the pandemic, Pritzker noted. Once those regions saw their outbreaks come back under control, the mitigations were lifted.
But the entire country — and much of the world — is now in the midst of a second or even third surge of COVID-19. Illinois is no different, and the state’s regions have struggled to control their outbreaks and get the state’s restrictions removed.
Pritzker didn’t detail what new restrictions could be coming to the state’s regions. The state could put more regions under Tier 2 and Tier 3 mitigations, he said — or regions could face the same stricter rules they did earlier in the pandemic.
“If the numbers keep going in the wrong direction, we will need to impose further mitigations,” Pritzker said. “I think we all remember what Phase 3 looked like or Phase 2 looked like. Those are all things that are under consideration.”
The restrictions of phases 2 and 3 of Illinois’ coronavirus reopening plan largely mirror Pritzker’s mitigation tiers.
During Phase 2, non-essential retail stores could only offer pickup or delivery services, and businesses like salons were closed. Under Phase 3, salons and offices were allowed to reopen, and gatherings of up to 10 people were allowed.
“All of the things we looked at and did over the last six months are things that are under consideration for what those new mitigations might look like,” Pritzker said.
But rather than wait for the state to impose more restrictions, people should simply follow the ones that are in place now and take safety steps to slow the virus’ spread, Pritzker said.
He urged people to wear masks, practice social distancing and not gather. Most spread is happening between small groups of family and friends getting together.
The governor also said local leaders and police officers should enforce the state’s orders and cite businesses that break the rules. Some restaurants and bars have stayed open and continued to offer indoor service in spite of the state’s rules.
When officials don’t enforce the mitigations, “people die,” Pritzker said.
And individuals need to follow the restrictions and “do the right thing” to protect themselves and their families, Pritzker said.
“Ultimately, we do believe these mitigations work, but people have to follow them,” he said.
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