Pritzker warns of Labor Day COVID-19 infections as regions see spikes
As COVID-19 cases rose by 2,128 on Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged residents to be cautious about social gatherings during the coming Labor Day holiday weekend.
"You're going to let your guard down because you'll be gathering with people you know, but that's exactly where spread is occurring," he warned. "The reality is you don't know where everybody who's there has been, and unless you maintain social distance and are mindful about wearing masks, there can be -- and has been -- a significant amount of spread."
Pritzker noted nine of the state's 11 regions have seen increases in the average infection rates over the past week, including four regions where the increase amounted to more than one full percentage point.
The admonition from the governor comes as state health officials announced Wednesday that 27 more Illinois residents have died from COVID-19, bringing the state's death toll from the virus to 8,091.
Thirteen of the deaths were in Chicago and the collar counties, and 14 were downstate.
Since the outbreak began, 238,643 people have been infected in Illinois.
With the new infections, the state's seven-day rate of positive test results stands at 4.5%, the highest level since early June. However, Illinois Department of Public Health officials acknowledged problems collecting some test data over the past few days, which has affected the number of test results the state agency is reporting.
Pritzker warned residents to remain vigilant about washing hands, wearing masks and maintaining social distance, or they could see restrictions on businesses and gatherings that other parts of the state have already experienced.
Two regions -- the Metro East region near St. Louis and the region containing Will and Kankakee counties -- are under "enhanced mitigation efforts" intended to help lower infection rates that exceed 8%. Those restrictions include reduced service hours for many businesses, a ban on indoor dining and bar service, and limits on gathering sizes to 25 people or less.
"Let me remind you that people are dying every day from this horrible virus," Pritzker said. "And thousands who have recovered are still suffering from life-threatening pulmonary and cardiac symptoms."
IDPH reported 83 more people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday than the previous day, with 1,596 patients now being treated in hospitals throughout the state for the infection. Of those hospitalized, 347 are in intensive care.
The state has reported three straight days of increased hospitalization counts for patients with the virus.
COVID-19 patients are taking up 4.6% of the state's hospital beds, according to IDPH figures. At the height of the pandemic in late April though, COVID-19 patients were taking up nearly 16% of the state's hospital beds.
During his news conference, Pritzker also urged residents to participate in the census in order to ensure better federal funding and representation.
The governor also took a swipe at Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, a fellow Democrat, regarding the empaneling of a special legislative committee to investigate Madigan's dealings with ComEd, saying perhaps the committee will "actually get some of those answers" to questions Madigan has avoided answering.
Pritzker also spoke about President Donald Trump's visit to Kenosha Tuesday, calling it a "political stunt" where the president is looking for ways to "sow division."