With Illinois reporting more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive day Monday, the state’s top public health official said the question of whether the state will have to reverse course on reopening will be answered by its residents.
“The answer is actually in the hands of the people of Illinois,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “It’s the choices that individuals make that will determine if these positivity rates continue to climb.”
In an interview on “Chicago Tonight,” Ezike said there’s been an increase in community spread of the virus as the state has opened up, and she emphasized that following health guidelines remains the best ways to keep the infection rate under control.
“Now is the time for us to really employ our masking and distancing to make sure that we can do the best that we can to keep the infection and transmission rates low,” Ezike said.
As to whether schools should be reopening, Ezike said it’s difficult to answer that question right now.
“It’s really hard to predict exactly where our numbers will be at the start of school,” Ezike said. “We are working very closely with the state board of education trying to lay out strategies and guidelines and policies for the eventuality that we might be in school, even if it is a hybrid model … We are doing table top exercises and drills to try and think through possible scenarios on how in-person schooling would be achieved.”
One piece of good news: The gap in the prevalence of COVID-19 between communities of color and white communities appears to be closing, thanks to targeted testing, health outreach and messaging efforts.
“It is not even but the gap is definitely narrowing,” Ezike said. “We’ve really tried to make sure that all communities in Illinois understand what is going on with this virus.”