Lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in more than two weeks, but Pritzker and Ezike worry about holiday ‘super-spreader events’

Lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in more than two weeks, but Pritzker and Ezike worry about holiday ‘super-spreader events’

Emilio Cici, 42, of Burr Ridge, gets a shot as he participates in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by UK drugmaker AstraZeneca in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rush University Medical Center on Thursday afternoon. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Pritzker said he is “concerned” people aren’t following the mitigations he put in place last week and worried that could lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases after the Thanksgiving holiday in Illinois.

State public health officials reported 8,322 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Monday as well as 47 additional deaths.

As of Sunday night, 6,171 people with the virus were reported to be in the hospital, 1,206 patients were in intensive care units, and 635 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The 8,322-daily caseload, while still higher than in previous months, was the lowest since Nov. 4 and only the seventh time this month when the daily figure was below 10,000.

And the latest cases were detected among almost 91,562 tests, lowering the statewide average testing positivity rate to 10.9%, the lowest it’s been since Nov. 8.

As part of the state’s tier three resurgence mitigations, Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked people who work in office settings to work from home if possible and he followed his own guidance Monday, allowing his employees to work from home and appearing virtually for his daily briefing on the virus.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his daily COVID-19 update during a virtual briefing on Monday.BlueRoomStream
Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his daily COVID-19 update during a virtual briefing on Monday.

Pritzker said he is “concerned” people aren’t following the mitigations he put in place last week and worried that could lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases after the Thanksgiving holiday in Illinois, which is already seeing rising numbers of infections, people in intensive care units and on ventilators.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike said it wasn’t too late for state residents to change their minds about their plans.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department o Public Health, participates virtually in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday. BlueRoomStream
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department o Public Health, participates virtually in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday.

“Thanksgiving hasn’t happened yet, people can still change their plans and change the outcome,” Ezike, the head of the state’s public health department, said. “We don’t have to have super-spreader events at homes. … Please reconsider your plans and see if we can be part of the solution to decrease infections, instead of part of the plan to increase them.”

The announcement of the new cases follows news of another drugmaker, AstraZeneca, reporting late-stage trials of a potential vaccine for the deadly virus being up to 90% effective in preventing the disease.

 Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The state has seen a “hint of leveling” in its new cases and positivity rates, Pritzker said last week, though he warned it was too early to tell if the dip in daily case counts was a “meaningful trend or an anomaly, but we’re glad to at least have a pause in our upward movement.”

Pritzker and Ezike warned the state’s residents not to dine with those outside of their immediate household for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Pritzker also applied pressure on the federal government for stimulus funding the state needs “in order to avoid disaster for many families” who could see funding from various benefits programs for those who are unemployed because of the pandemic dry up.

The 2020 recession caused by the pandemic has resulted in almost three and a half times as many regular unemployment claims, compared to the first nine months of either the 2008 or 2001 recessions, Pritzker said.

The state’s department of employment security fielded over 1.8 million calls during a peak week in May, or roughly three calls per second. Without a stimulus bill in December, “Republicans will be putting a big lump of coal in the Christmas stockings of a whole lot of American families,” the governor said.

“The clock is ticking,” Pritzker said. “Without renewed action from Congress millions of families across the United States will be plunged into far worse economic hardship than they’re already facing, and not just in the middle of the holidays but also in the middle of the worst phase of this pandemic that the nation has yet seen.”