COVID-19 update: With 2,793 new cases, Pritzker 'concerned' about some rising numbers

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from nurse NaTasha McCoy at the state-supported mass vaccination site Wednesday in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from nurse NaTasha McCoy at the state-supported mass vaccination site Wednesday in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker gets a bandage from nurse NaTasha McCoy after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the state-supported mass vaccination site Wednesday in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker gets a bandage from nurse NaTasha McCoy after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the state-supported mass vaccination site Wednesday in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. Justin L. Fowler /The State Journal-Register via AP

 
 
Updated 3/24/2021 10:11 PM

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday he's watching rising COVID-19 cases but that Illinois is nowhere near restoring tough restrictions on activities to prevent spread of the virus.

But if a high-risk trend erupts, Pritzker said, he would move a region or regions of the state back to previous stricter rules guiding the number of people gathering in public spaces.

 

"I don't expect us to get there, but also, I've been to this movie before and seen the rising positivity rates, and I'm concerned about it," Pritzker said minutes before getting a shot of Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

"Right now we're on course; we're still following the guidance that we set out for everybody. If for some reason we need to halt and move some region back into a previous phase because the numbers are going way up and beyond the guidelines we set out for those phases, we'll have to do that. But that's not where we are now."

Reaching a future "Bridge Phase" of fewer restrictions, increased capacity in restaurants and businesses, and permissible events like conventions will depend on an array of data, including holding steady on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths over 28 days.

The state averaged 1,992 new COVID-19 infections in the last seven days, compared to the March average of 1,709 a day, a difference of 14%. New cases reported Wednesday numbered 2,793.

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The state surpassed 5 million shots in arms Wednesday, including Moderna's and Pfizer's two-dose vaccines along with J&J, a positive step as the number of more infectious variants of the COVID-19 virus is growing.

The state now has 176 variant cases with a 23.7% spike in the virus mutation originating in the United Kingdom since Sunday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The IDPH website recorded 135 U.K. variant cases Sunday, compared to 167 on Wednesday.

"I am concerned as I see numbers going up. Is that the variants or is it a blip in the data?" Pritzker said. "There is more (social) activity going on and I think people are being a little less careful. Please keep your distance, please wear your masks."

Hospitalizations for the respiratory disease averaged 1,182 over the last seven days, slightly higher than the 1,170 daily average for March.

Pritzker qualifies for the vaccine as a government worker. "I'm not asking you to do anything I wouldn't do myself," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Asked why he was getting inoculated in Springfield instead of his hometown Chicago, "I happened to be here. The legislature is in session, so it was convenient for me to do it," the governor said.

"We have a fighting chance to bring this pandemic to an end," Pritzker said. "I'm not a doctor, but I trust doctors. These vaccines offer us all a faster way back to normal life." He said he felt "fine" after the shot.

The state prioritized vaccine eligibility with a first wave of medical workers and long-term care residents, or Phase 1A, then a second wave of people age 65 and older plus front-line essential workers like police in Phase 1B, followed by people with serious medical conditions like cancer, or Phase 1B-plus.

On Monday, the state expanded the essential worker category to include higher-education staffs, media and government workers. Pritzker is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Illinoisans 16 and older effective April 12. But in Chicago and the suburbs a huge backlog of people trying to get appointments for shots exists.

Cook County just opened up inoculations to residents in Phase 1B-plus Monday, and the DuPage County Health Department followed suit on Wednesday.

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