Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois health officials are stressing the need to wear masks properly, covering the nose and mouth, and social distance during Labor Day weekend gatherings with friends and family as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the state.
The governor on Wednesday said that over the past two weeks, nine of Illinois’ 11 health regions have seen their coronavirus positivity rates continue moving upward. Four of those regions have gone up one full percentage point or more during that time.
Just like during the Fourth of July weekend, Pritzker said he’s “very concerned” about the risk of spread at gatherings like picnics and backyard barbecues during Labor Day weekend.
“We know that much of the spread that’s occurring in Illinois is actually happening in these (gatherings),” he said. “They’re not public settings, they’re often private settings and people often let down their guard thinking ‘Well I’m at home’ or ‘I’m at someone’s home that I know.’ But the reality is that you don’t know where everybody that’s there has been.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Assistant Director Amaal Tokars added that even small family gatherings this weekend “must look different” than they have in the past, as proper virus spread prevention tactics are necessities.
The IDPH on Wednesday announced 2,128 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Illinois over the past 24 hours, including 27 additional deaths. That brings the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 238,643 cases and 8,091 deaths.
According to IDPH data, 32,751 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours and fewer than 23,000 tests were conducted a day earlier. That’s well below the 40,000 to 50,000 daily tests that had been seen on a regular basis in previous weeks.
While all results have currently been reported out, Tokars said the department is dealing with a “minor tech issue” in its data processing system used to report out the number of tests publicly.
“This is being worked on with urgency” she said, “and we expect that this will be addressed very soon.”
Nicholas Soulakis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said that 75 of Illinois’ 102 counties have set new seven-day highs for confirmed active cases.
In the last 60 days, there have been more than 1,400 COVID-19 cases and contacts associated with bars, according to Soulakis, most frequently in urban and suburban areas such as Chicago and its surrounding collar counties.
Within the last two weeks, there was also a single outbreak of at least 14 cases that’s believed to be tied to college students returning to campus.
Thirty counties are currently at a warning level and two regions – Metro East and South Suburban – are under enhanced mitigation efforts requiring the closures of indoor dining and bar service, and a limit of 25 guests or 25% of overall room capacity.
Pritzker said the decision to implement those enhanced measures was not made lightly, and that they wouldn’t be imposed “if there wasn’t evidence of increasing spread of the virus in these areas.”
“I want to get people back to work and finding new opportunities for themselves and their families,” he said. “But the greatest hindrance to restoring our nation’s economic vitality is the virus. Until we get it under control … we are going to be fighting for our economic recovery with one arm tied behind our back.”