Gov. Pritzker limits store crowds, closes theaters and casinos — and simplifies COVID-19 plan: ‘If you don’t need to do it, don’t’
The guidelines stave off another stay-at-home order like the one that shut down most of the state economy in the spring — for now, at least.
With the entire Midwest region “once again in the throes of the worst of this coronavirus pandemic,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced the closures of museums, theaters and casinos across Illinois among a slew of other business restrictions — but stopped well short of a second statewide stay-at-home order.
Capacity limits at big box stores and other retailers except for grocery stores and pharmacies will be slashed from 50% to 25% under the governor’s Tier 3 resurgence mitigations that take effect Friday.
Gyms are also being scaled down to 25% capacity, while indoor group fitness classes will be halted completely. Personal services that require masks to be taken off, such as facials and beard trims, are also suspended, as are indoor youth and adult recreational sports.
Pritzker said his enhanced guidelines boil down to a simple idea: “If you don’t need to do it, don’t.”
The guidelines stave off another stay-at-home order like the one that shut down most of the state economy in the spring — for now, at least. That’ll depend on how well residents and businesses follow the rules, the governor said.
“This is a temporary set of rules that are designed by doctors to keep you safe,” Pritzker said. “I’m hopeful that by limiting our in-person interactions now, we will succeed at avoiding a stay-at-home order like what we had last spring, when the choice between saving lives and saving livelihoods was even more stark. Tier 3 may allow us to do both.”
Read Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s full set of Tier 3 mitigations:
The latest mitigations will be in place for all 11 regions of the state until their average COVID-19 testing positivity rates fall below 12% for three straight days, more than 20% of intensive care unit hospital beds are available and the average number of hospitalizations decline overall for seven out of 10 days.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will track those metrics over two-week monitoring periods “to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required or if current mitigations should remain in place” in each region, according to the governor’s health team.
The state was well within those thresholds over the summer, but it will take drastic improvement for any region to shed the new restrictions as an unprecedented COVID-19 resurgence rages on.
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Public health officials on Tuesday reported 12,601 more coronavirus cases across Illinois. Illinois first topped 10,000 new cases in a day on Nov. 6 and has not fallen below that level since.
The state has logged almost 143,000 cases over that 12-day span, about as many as it did during the first four months of the pandemic combined. Nearly 598,000 people have contracted the virus in Illinois throughout eight months of the pandemic, with almost a third of all cases coming this month alone.
The latest cases were detected among 94,205 tests submitted to the state health department, keeping the seven-day average testing positivity rate at 12.5%.
More than 300 additional hospital beds were taken up by coronavirus patients by Monday night compared to the previous night, reaching yet another record high of 5,887. Nightly COVID-19 hospitalizations have now topped 5,000 for a full week. The state passed that mark on only one night during the first wave of the pandemic in May.
Other critical hospital metrics have been getting worse by the day for a full month, too, with 1,158 patients currently requiring intensive care and 545 using ventilators. Hospitals in the northwest corner of the state and in Will and Kankakee counties are already approaching capacity, according to Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
Officials also attributed 97 more deaths to the coronavirus, which has claimed 587 Illinois lives over the last week alone, the state’s worst seven-day stretch since the springtime peak. The latest victims include 36 Chicago-area residents, raising the statewide death toll to 10,875.
And without statewide action, that number could balloon to as many as 45,000 COVID-19 deaths by March, according to the governor’s most dire projections.
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“This virus has backed us into a corner, and we are left making insanely difficult and weighty decisions,” Ezike said. “We all want to get back to normal, but we can’t get there just yet. ... Instead of trying to buck the mitigations, can we all just follow them, acknowledging that these are what are needed to get back to some semblance of normal?”
Several groups representing hospitals and medical professionals commended Pritzker’s new set of guidelines, while the Illinois Retail Merchants Association said it “strikes the right balance between allowing access to retail services and the need to adjust safety measures in response to the latest science about how to address this virus.”
The Illinois restrictions follow similar rollbacks handed down this week in California, Washington state and Michigan.
Pritzker joined a bipartisan group of governors from six other Midwest states — Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin — in a video public service announcement video calling on residents to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings, to wear face masks and to maintain social distance.
“To fight this virus, governors across the country have listened to medical experts, stepped up, and worked around the clock to protect our families, the brave men and women on the front lines, and our small business owners,” the governors said in a joint statement. “And no matter the action we take, we understand that our fight against COVID-19 will be more effective when we work together.”