Traveling? 'Change your plans,' Pritzker urges as COVID-19 deaths up 137% from a month ago
Thanksgiving travelers on the brink of heading to O'Hare or Midway international airports should "change your plans, if you can," Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged Tuesday amid a reported 9,469 new COVID-19 cases, 125 new deaths and hospitalizations of more than 6,000 patients for the sixth day in a row.
"Hospitals are still under siege by the latest upswing of COVID-19 cases," Pritzker said at a briefing. "And with the latest mitigations not expected to show up in numbers for another week or 10 days, Thanksgiving this year needs to be distant."
The state's virus positivity rate is 10.4% based on a seven-day average, reflecting a continued, although incremental, decline, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported. That rate, reflecting positive results among tests taken, was 12.5% a week ago.
The number of people who have died from COVID-19 in November is 1,931, a 137% increase from 816 deaths from Oct. 1 to Oct. 24.
"The governor of Illinois telling people not to travel and be with their families on Thanksgiving ... I know that sounds crazy, but this is 2020," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said. "We have to accept what we're dealing with -- a global pandemic -- the likes of which no one has ever seen before."
The rate of increase for hospitalizations is easing slightly, officials said.
"One out of every four patients in the hospital has COVID-19," Ezike said. "The increase is a bit slower than last week (and) we want to be cautiously optimistic, but I don't want to put too much out there. We still have yet to see the effects of Tier 3 mitigations."
The mitigations went into effect Friday and include closing movie theaters temporarily, limits of 50% capacity at grocery stores and 25% at other stores, suspending indoor group sports, closing casinos and gambling terminals, and banning events at banquet halls, party venues and clubs.
Illinois hospitals had 6,134 COVID-19 patients as of Monday night, the third highest hospitalization count since the pandemic began. The average count in the last seven days is 6,093, a 12% increase from Nov. 10 through 16, which averaged 5,431 patients daily. There was a 29% spike in hospitalizations Nov. 3 through 9, when daily averages were 4,207.
Total infections statewide stand at 674,089 and fatalities are 11,677.
Illinois labs processed 97,323 virus tests in the last 24 hours.
Although AAA predicted about 51% fewer Illinoisans will travel this holiday week, crowds were still heading to O'Hare and Midway.
For people who decide to cancel travel plans, policies vary by airline. Major carriers like United and American Airlines are waiving change fees for flights within the U.S. but will not refund the difference for rebooking lower-cost tickets.