CHICAGO — This holiday season could turn into the deadliest time yet of the coronavirus pandemic if people don’t keep following safety measures, Gov. JB Pritzker warned Thursday.
Illinois is already in the midst of a second COVID-19 wave. Cases have fallen in recent days, but new cases and positivity rates remain high — and more than 2,900 Illinoisans have been reported dead from coronavirus in the past two weeks.
Officials worry there could be a surge on top of that as people are tempted to visit family, friends and gather without taking safety precautions for holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas.
“Experts believe this could be the deadliest time of the pandemic,” Pritzker said at a Thursday coronavirus update.
Instead, people should work to protect each other — and that includes doing things like celebrating holidays virtually, wearing masks and social distancing, Pritzker said.
The governor said individual choices — like choosing to see a cousin over Christmas — end up affecting everyone, from frontline health care workers to grocery clerks, as they lead to coronavirus spread.
And though the Pfizer vaccine is now being distributed, it’ll be months before it’s available to the general public. Experts have said people need to keep taking safety precautions during this time because the virus can still spread and kill.
People shouldn’t get complacent and gather just because there’s a vaccine, Pritzker said.
Pritzker and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, have also said for months that testing can’t give someone a free pass.
Someone could get a false negative and, thinking they’re safe, meet with family, only to transmit the virus to them, officials have warned. Or someone could become infected after getting the test and then pass the virus on to people they see.
People should limit their celebrations to virtual meetups and “stick with the people you live with,” Ezike said Thursday.
Last week, Ezike also urged people to find ways to celebrate virtually or in a socially distant way — like donating to a charitable organization in someone’s honor or dropping off gifts at someone’s home rather than opening them together.
“I want you to call or video chat, as many of you did at Thanksgiving,” she said. “There is still time to change your holiday plans. If you haven’t made them, I hope you will take this to heart.
“Please, let’s give the gift of life, let’s give the gift of health this holiday season. Again, we’ve come too far to give up now.”
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