“As the weather cools and more activity turns inside out, we may have a real problem on our hands,” the Democratic governor said at a press conference Monday.
Last week, each of the state’s 11 regions hit parameters that triggered certain restrictions. Actions in Chicago began the previous week, including limiting gatherings to fewer than 25 people and banning food and bar services inside. On Monday, Mr Pritzker said three additional regions would be subject to the stricter second phase of restrictions, including DuPage and Kane counties west of Chicago and Will and Kankakee counties south of Chicago.
Under Level 2, indoor and outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people are prohibited, and no indoor service is allowed in bars or restaurants.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re really concerned,” said Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Dr Ezike said she was particularly concerned about the availability of hospital beds.
New daily confirmed cases in the state are almost five times higher since Oct. 1, Governor Pritzker said on Monday, when the state recorded 10,573 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over the past five weeks, the daily positivity rate has nearly tripled, while daily hospitalizations and deaths have more than doubled over the same period.
The majority of the new infections and deaths have been in the northeastern part of the state near Chicago. Of the 500,000 total cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic, about half have been reported in areas of Chicago and surrounding areas.
Kimberley Junius, spokesperson for the Cook County Public Health Department, said she believed the spread was due to “Covid fatigue and people are not as vigilant about masking and distance physical in a consistent and correct manner. Ms Junius said emergency department visits and hospital admissions were also on the rise. “We are very concerned that the health care system may be under pressure very soon,” she said.
Staffing continues to be an issue for public health departments across the country, including in Illinois’ most populous county, she said. “Our agency has 150 employees serving 2.5 million people. We are now expanding our team to include an additional 375 contact tracing staff, ”she said.
On October 2, the state recorded 6,222 cases and the week before, 4,729 cases. The seven-day average for October 1, which smooths out irregularities in the data, was 2046. One month later, on November 1, that average was 6,367.
Last Friday, Mr Pritzker said that while he had not seen a statewide stay-at-home order in the days or weeks to come, he would not rule it out as a possibility if the spread of the virus was not decreasing. “I just don’t know. None of us, frankly, expected the whole country to be swept away by an increase in Covid-19, ”he said.