Pritzker won't loosen restrictions anywhere for 'next few weeks'
Citing fears of a Thanksgiving-related resurgence of COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that mitigation restrictions in the state will not be loosened in coming weeks.
Regional figures will be re-evaluated at the earliest in two weeks, Pritzker said, but "no region will be downgraded ... for the next few weeks, even if they might be on track to meet those metrics."
None of the four suburban regions currently meet the criteria to have restrictions loosened. All four are reporting test positivity rates above 12%, based on a seven-day average, and two have seen rates increase in the past few days.
Meanwhile, state health officials announced Monday that 85 more residents have died from COVID-19, while 6,190 new cases of the disease were diagnosed.
Among the dead were 65 Cook County residents; the youngest was a woman in her 30s.
Since the outset of the pandemic, Illinois has recorded 12,278 deaths from the virus and 726,304 residents have been infected, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures.
The state's seven-day average infection rate rose slightly to 10.2% after three consecutive days at 10.1%.
Statewide, hospitals reported 5,849 COVID-19 patients were being treated Sunday, nine fewer than the previous day.
Hospitalizations have decreased in seven of the past nine days. The seven-day average of new cases has also decreased each day since last Wednesday.
"Of course I'm hoping and praying it's a positive trend," said state health department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "I'd like to believe it's a result of the mitigations that have been in place for weeks and months are starting to kick in and that people, after hearing that their hospitals are actually being threatened in terms of their capacity, that has encouraged some additional behaviors."
But she also suggested reduced hospitalizations may be related to the holiday weekend staffing at hospitals, and that some people who needed hospitalization were holding off until after the weekend.
The entire state is operating under several restrictions, including reducing capacity to 50% at grocery stores and 25% at other stores, suspending indoor group sports, closing casinos and video gambling terminals, and banning events at banquet halls, party venues and clubs.
Other restrictions ordered by Pritzker temporarily shuttered movie theaters, capped outdoor gatherings at 10 people and limited funerals to 10 relatives.
Pritzker said he made the decision to hold off on loosening any restrictions after a conversation Monday morning with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"The number of patients fighting COVID-19 in our hospital systems statewide still eclipses our spring peak," Pritzker said. "We had hoped to see more progress in lowering the hospitalization levels by now."
In talking with Fauci, Pritzker said the nation's top infectious disease expert "offered a bleak outlook" due to the many Thanksgiving gatherings held despite dire warnings they could lead to "a surge upon a surge related to the holidays."
"We are still in a precarious place, and we've got to take the time to evaluate any Thanksgiving effects before making any premature adjustments," Pritzker said