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Holiday plans? Pritzker urges coronavirus caution — says he hopes to spend his Thanksgiving in Illinois

Pritzker’s comments came on a day the state reported another 11,632 new and probable COVID-19 cases, as well as 37 additional deaths. It was also the first day of stay-at-home advisories for Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during his daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center earlier this month.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during his daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center earlier this month.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Already feeling the pain from the fall coronavirus explosion, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday urged Illinois residents to rethink crowded Thanksgiving dinners or the state could “expect much worse.”

A little over a week before a holiday that typically sees people feasting indoors with family, the governor and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Public Health Department, urged caution to avoid overtaxing the state’s health care apparatus.

“Our hospitals are on their way to being overwhelmed — our doctors, nurses and health care workers are already being stretched beyond their limits,” Ezike said. “I don’t know how else to express the importance of personal responsibility.”

The governor urged people to ask themselves “if it’s worth it to spread the virus at any upcoming gatherings.” Though there’s “real hope for possible widespread distribution” of a vaccine by early spring, that’s still months away, Pritzker said.

For his part, Pritzker said he won’t be hosting friends who can’t go home for the holiday as he usually does. But asked whether or not he’d be in the state for Thanksgiving, the governor was noncommittal, saying “that is my hope, but I’ll let you know.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions from the media during a daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center earlier this month.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions from the media during a daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center earlier this month.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Pritzker’s comments came on a day the state reported another 11,632 new and probable cases of the coronavirus, as well as 37 additional deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 10,779.

It was also the first day of stay-at-home advisories for residents of Chicago and suburban Cook County.

State health officials reported 5,581 people were hospitalized with the virus as of Sunday night, with 1,144 of those patients in intensive care units and 514 on ventilators.

The state is averaging about 5,200 patients with COVID-19 in the state’s hospitals, or about 400 more people than during the state’s highest point in the spring — “a 70% increase in the last two weeks alone,” Pritzker said.

The 11,632 new infections marked the eleventh straight day of five-digit daily caseloads, a stretch that included Friday’s 15,415. That was the highest number of new cases logged in a single day by any state in the nation throughout eight months of the pandemic.

The governor also said the most recent week over week percent increase is three times what it was in early October, before the state saw a dramatic surge in case numbers. With the nation now gripped by an unnerving surge, too, that means Illinois is also without “reinforcements from other states,” such as the nurses who came in the spring to help at Illinois hospitals.

“Every bed in the hospital that a COVID patient takes up is a bed that’s not going to treat someone’s heart attack, a cancer patient or the victim of a car crash, every doctor reassigned to the COVID wing is a doctor no longer available to do an appendectomy, set a broken rib,” Pritzker said. “Take into account that we have just 1,100 ICU beds open in a state of nearly 13 million people in the middle of a pandemic.

“Deaths from COVID-19 are up 260% since the beginning of October when we were averaging 23 deaths a day, up 98% from two weeks ago when we were averaging 41 per day. Now we’re seeing 81 deaths per day. That means that every day, we’re averaging another 81 mothers or fathers, or children or grandchildren, no longer with us.”

A nurse takes her gloves off as she walks out of a COVID-19 patient’s room at Roseland Community Hospital in April of 2020.
A nurse takes her gloves off as she walks out of a COVID-19 patient’s room in April at Roseland Community Hospital on the Far South Side.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention at Advocate Aurora Health, told reporters in a separate briefing Monday “we’re in the midst of an absolutely abysmal second wave of this pandemic.”

“Thanksgiving dinners have the potential of being super spreader events,” he said. “It’s so critically important that we do not do that. The numbers are devastating right now. Our health care system cannot absorb doubling or tripling of those numbers.”

The large regional health care system, which also operates in Wisconsin, has 10 hospitals in Illinois, mostly in the Chicago area. Advocate has more than 600 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, more than three and a half times the number it saw a month ago.

Monday’s figures bring the state’s total to 585,248 cases. The caseload comes from 90,612 tests conducted over the last 24 hours. The state’s seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases is 12.5%.

Recent new and probable case records have broken records the state set earlier this year around the peak of the first coronavirus wave. From last Monday to present, the state has reported 97,261 new cases.

With holidays looming, local officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, issued stay-at-home advisories to limit the spread of the virus.

The advisories for residents in suburban Cook County and Chicago went into effect 6 a.m. Monday.

Of the 37 deaths reported Monday, 19 were from Cook County.