State’s Top Doc: Keeping an Eye on ER Stats


Dr. Ngozi Ezike wants to work out, to play tennis in particular – something neither she nor anyone in Illinois has been able to do, per executive orders issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

By next week, though, it’s likely that will change.

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Tennis is permissible under the third phase of the governor’s reopening plan; each of Illinois’ four regions are on track to reach that phase on May 29; restaurants will be able to serve customers alfresco (except for those in Chicago, as the mayor announced Thursday), people can once again gather in groups of 10 or fewer (while following social distancing guidelines) and golfers can hit the greens in foursomes.

“Some things will loosen up but that of course comes with a caution that the virus is still there,” Ezike said Thursday on “Chicago Tonight.” “Some people may still want to exert a lot of caution and be careful, especially if they’re in one of the high-risk categories.”

People should also be extra cautious if they live with someone who is elderly or has complicating factors, or even if they work with someone who does.

Ezike says she may dine outside with friends once that’s allowed — and when she has time for it.

“If you have people that you maybe trust,” she said. “I wouldn’t go for large groups but if they’re going to be wearing their mask and I knew that people all were going to be washing their hands and that everybody would respect the 6 feet of distancing. I might engage.”

Ezike said she’ll find people who will be safe with her.

Would she travel on an airplane?

“I’m not going to be rushing into that but if I had to I would,” she said. “It’s all about balance.”

Pritzker on Tuesday loosened up on some of the restrictions that were previously part of the third phase of the reopening plan.

Throughout the pandemic, Ezike and Pritzker have had their eye on certain metrics. One of them is the R0 (pronounced R-naught), which measures how contagious a virus is.

The goal is for Illinois to bring the R0 value to below one.

As of this week, Ezike said, it’s getting close.

“We started off probably in the three range,” she said.

But “aggressive measures” like the stay-at-home orders helped to bring it down.

As of earlier this week, she said it was between 1.12 to 1.14 throughout Illinois.

“So not quite under one, but really we saw great movement from the great work that the people of Illinois did” by following public health protocols, she said.

As Illinois’ economy begins to reopen, Ezike said she’ll keep close watch on people who go to the emergency room with COVID-19 symptoms, and patients who are then admitted to the ER or ICU — measures that can foretell of a looming outbreak and increase in coronavirus cases.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


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