Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday urged unvaccinated Illinois to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated, warning of a “growing presence” of a highly contagious variant of COVID-19 that he and public health officials from the State expect to dominate cases statewide by the fall.
Wearing a face mask before speaking, Pritzker made his plea at an independent West Side press conference, telling residents not to let their guard down over the expected spread of the Delta variant in Illinois.
“The lessons here at home and around the world are a harbinger of what could happen here, especially in low-immunized areas, if we don’t see greater vaccine uptake in Illinois,” said Pritzker.
“It’s very real. I implore all residents: If you have friends and family on the fence, share with them the vital benefits of these free vaccines and encourage them to remain masked until they are fully vaccinated.
Pritzker said he decided to wear a face cover before speaking on the podium in the North Lawndale neighborhood “out of caution”.
“I think when we leave our house every day, I encourage everyone – whether you are vaccinated or not – to bring your mask with you,” Pritzker said. “You know the guidelines in the state of Illinois and use your mask accordingly. “
The Delta variant is a highly contagious and potentially more serious strain of the coronavirus first discovered in India.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called it a “variant of concern,” meaning “there is evidence of increased transmissibility, more serious disease… or vaccines.
During a briefing in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, called the Delta variant the “most transmissible” variant identified so far.
Health officials have previously said vaccines are effective against this variant and Pritzker reiterated this on Monday, saying injections are “the best tool we have to protect each other.”
Only 84 cases of the Delta variant had been reported in Illinois as of Sunday – the least of the six variants – but the governor said he and his public health team “expect it to dominate our cases. across the state by fall ”.
After seeing daily immunization averages well above 100,000 in the spring, state health officials reported a seven-day moving average of 43,219 vaccines administered. So far, just over 48% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.
While vaccines can help prevent a person from catching the coronavirus – or having a severe case – it’s still possible to be hospitalized or die from the virus. Figures updated last Wednesday by the state’s public health department show that 466 fully vaccinated people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 – 124 fully vaccinated people have died from the virus or from complications.
These cases are called vaccine breakthroughs, a term the state uses for people who test positive for COVID-19 at least 14 days after being fully immunized and who have not tested positive in the previous 45 days. .
Pritzker removed the state’s masking warrant and social distancing guidelines in May after the CDC issued updated guidelines that allowed fully vaccinated people to safely stop wearing masks outdoors and in the majority of indoor environments.
The organization has always called for masks in crowded indoor environments – such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.