Pritzker reiterates no high school football

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois has performed more COVID-19 tests than any other state except New York and California.

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois has performed more COVID-19 tests than any other state except New York and California. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, July 10, 2020

Updated 9/21/2020 3:26 PM

Citing the state's infection rate and the advice of medical experts, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says it's unlikely the high school football season will start anytime soon.

"I want fall sports, all fall sports, I really do," Pritzker said at a news conference in Springfield Monday. "These are very, very hard choices, and my job, in part, is to weigh those choices and listen to the doctors."


Meanwhile, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reported Monday that seven more Illinois residents have died from COVID-19 and 1,477 new cases have been diagnosed. That brings the state's death toll to 8,457, with 275,735 Illinois residents who have contracted the respiratory disease since the outbreak began.

Pritzker was unswayed by several hundred people who showed up over the weekend at rallies in Chicago and Springfield urging the state to allow schools to start playing sports like football and girls volleyball.

High school athletes in sports like swimming, tennis and baseball -- which Pritzker has labeled as low risk for spreading the virus -- have been allowed to compete.

He noted that just because college and professional football has restarted does not make it any safer for high school athletes to compete in the sport. Pritzker cited testing protocols that are in place at those levels that don't exist in high school. Several high schools reported COVID-19 outbreaks during summer camps, as well.

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"The virus is still out there," Pritzker said. "We have a relatively high positivity rate. And while it's lower than our neighbors, there are quite a number of states that have lower positivity rates than we do."

The state's positivity rate, reflecting COVID-19 tests that come back positive, remained at 3.5% for the third straight day following the release of 38,243 more test results. The state hasn't had a sustained rate of 3.5% or lower since late July, according to IDPH figures. On Sept. 2, the infection rate was a full percentage point higher.

Ezike and Pritzker also lauded the state's testing capabilities, noting that only New York and California have given more tests than Illinois, which has now performed more than 5.1 million tests.

"Testing is a critical step in reducing the spread of the virus, because a positive test result begins the contact tracing process, which identifies who was exposed and needs to be quarantined to prevent further spread," Ezike said.


The state is averaging more than 50,000 test results per day, Pritzker added. IDPH records show the state was averaging 53,084 test results each day over the past week. The state reported nearly 75,000 test results alone on Saturday.

"We do three and a half times the testing the average state does," the governor said. "And we're one of the fastest states in delivering tests back to our residents."

State officials also announced $156 million in grants to 4,686 child care facilities throughout the state to help offset costs to families of young children.

"Illinois directed federal pandemic response dollars to helping child care providers operate in safer, smaller group sizes without needing to impose large tuition increases on families," Pritzker said. "Holding ourselves to the highest standards when it comes to our youngest children is vital to strengthening the social and economic fabric of our state and our nation."

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