CHICAGO — Another 45,000 Illinoisans could die from coronavirus by March 1 without new restrictions from the state, Gov. JB Pritzker said.
Those restrictions kick in Friday morning, when every region of Illinois will go under Tier 3 mitigations that close museums, casinos and theaters; cut capacity at stores; stop indoor sports and put stricter rules in place at gyms and salons.
Illinois’ top officials hope those measures can slow the spread of COVID-19 without the need of a full stay at home order as new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have skyrocketed statewide since early October. Officials are deeply concerned this wave of coronavirus will prove even deadlier than the spring surge.
Without the rules — and people following them — tens of thousands of people could die in the next few months, Pritzker has said at news conferences this week.
“Models project that without additional mitigations, daily COVID-19 deaths would at least match the previous spring wave and could even rise up to four to five times that level — a risk that grows as hospitals become increasingly filled by more patients and as more of our heroic health care workers get sick, leading to staffing shortages,” Pritzker said Wednesday.
That would translate into 17,000-45,000 more Illinoisans dying by March, Pritzker said.
And those projections assume hospitals are able to “continue providing the optimal level of care,” Pritkzer said.
Pritzker and other state and city officials have been ringing alarm bells about that, noting hospitals are quickly becoming overwhelmed and there might not be enough health care staff and hospital beds for everyone who is ill. That would lead to more people dying.
“We can’t let that happen,” Pritzker said Tuesday. “We will continue to see a rise in both hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 for weeks ahead because of the infections that have already happened.
“But we can change our longer-term outcome. We can save potentially thousands of lives in the next few months if we make changes right now to stop this in its tracks.”
Already, at least 11,014 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 454 deaths are considered to be probably related to coronavirus.
Over the past few weeks, the state has repeatedly broken its records for the number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily. Even more concerning to officials is the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus is already above what the state saw during the first wave in the spring, and deaths have rapidly grown.
Just Wednesday, the state reported 140 people dying from coronavirus, including 44 Chicagoans.
The state’s officials had hoped Illinois wouldn’t see 11,000 deaths from COVID-19 until the end of the year, but the fast growth of cases and deaths meant Illinois hit that grim milestone early.
Because there has been such a large surge in new cases and hospitalizations since early October, deaths will continue to remain high for several weeks, Pritzker said.
But if people follow the state’s new restrictions and take other safety measures — like wearing a mask and not gathering with people outside their household — future deaths can be prevented, officials have siad.
“This is a temporary set of rules designed by doctors to keep you safe. To be very clear, we are relying on you here. … We’re asking people to hold themselves and each other accountable,” Pritzker said.
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