Fauci warns Pritzker of ‘post-Thanksgiving surge’ — says it’s ‘no time to pull back’ from COVID-19 restrictions

“I spoke with Dr. Fauci this morning to get his input about Illinois’ situation,” Pritzker said. “He said the massive number of indoor gatherings by people visiting family and friends across the nation will very likely bring a post-Thanksgiving surge, and he believes this is no time to pull back on mitigations.”

SHARE Fauci warns Pritzker of ‘post-Thanksgiving surge’ — says it’s ‘no time to pull back’ from COVID-19 restrictions
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, earlier this month; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, on Monday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left, wears a protective mask during a White House briefing earlier this month; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, answers questions from the media during his daily COVID-19 update on Monday.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images file; Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file.

Just hours after he spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci and other infectious disease experts, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday none of the state’s 11 regions will get any break from Tier 3 coronavirus mitigations “for the next few weeks.”

The governor opened his daily COVID-19 briefing with the sobering news, citing advice from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Fauci — director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — and other infectious disease experts.

“We are still very much in a precarious place, and we have got to take the time to evaluate any Thanksgiving effects before we make any premature adjustments,” Pritzker said during his Monday briefing on the virus.

“I spoke with Dr. Fauci this morning to get his input about Illinois’ situation. He said the massive number of indoor gatherings by people visiting family and friends across the nation will very likely bring a post-Thanksgiving surge, and he believes this is no time to pull back on mitigations.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a news conference in Washington last week.

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a news conference in Washington last week.

Susan Walsh/AP file

Pritzker spoke to the head of the country’s allergy and infectious diseases institute Monday as part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s Governors Briefing.

The governor’s decision comes as the state logs another 6,190 new and probable cases of the coronavirus and 85 new deaths on Monday, ending the month with another relatively lower caseload just weeks after hitting a daily record that topped any other state.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the state’s department of public health, recommended people get tested later this week if they gathered with others for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The new cases come from a batch of 66,980 tests conducted in the past 24 hours.

As of Sunday night, 5,849 people in Illinois were reported to be in hospitals with COVID-19 — of that number, 1,217 patients were in intensive care units and 715 patients who have tested positive for the virus were on ventilators.

The relatively lower caseload brings the total for the month of November to 308,331 cases. That’s more than Illinois saw in the entire first eight months since the pandemic hit the state. It brings the daily average for November to nearly 10,278 cases. That’s almost five times the daily average for May, the peak month of the spring surge.

The state continued a streak of case records fewer than 8,000 new cases Monday, though the number of patients fighting the virus in hospitals statewide eclipses the state’s spring peak by 23% Pritzker said.

“We had hoped to see more progress in lowering hospitalizations by now,” Pritzker said, warning that is the state is not “especially careful right now” the surge could overwhelm the healthcare system.

His hope, and expectation, is that, after Dec. 10, there will be “relatively quick distribution” of a vaccine manufactured by Pfizer once they receive emergency use authorization.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions during a daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop in November.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions during his daily COVID-19 update at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop on Monday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Who will get that vaccine first, beyond first responders, is still being worked out — the governor said he wants to make sure “adults who are most vulnerable” get the vaccine early on.

While the daily caseloads of the last few days are still twice what the state was seeing in May, they are down considerably from earlier in November, which included one 12-day stretch of 10,000-plus days.

The state saw its all-time high of 15,415 new cases on Nov. 13 — more than any other state in the nation has ever logged in a single day throughout eight months of the pandemic.

Four days later, Pritzker announced the closures of museums, theaters and casinos across Illinois among a slew of other business restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, though those restrictions stopped well short of a second statewide stay-at-home order.

The Tier 3 mitigations also include reducing capacity limits at big box stores and most other retailers from 50% to 25%. Grocery stores and pharmacies remain at the 50% capacity limits that were already in place.

Gyms were also scaled down to 25% capacity, while indoor group fitness classes were stopped completely. Personal services that require masks to be taken off, such as facials and beard trims, are also suspended under the Tier 3 mitigations, as are indoor youth and adult recreational sports.

Preparing for a potential post-Thanksgiving surge, health officials said cases attributed to people who may have gathered for the holiday last week could begin appearing in the data as early as this week.

Pritzker and state health officials warned residents last week to avoid gathering with people outside of their immediate household to avoid catching the deadly virus.

“Thanksgiving this year needs to be different,” Pritzker said Tuesday. “To those who haven’t yet changed your plans, the doctors are asking all of us to skip the big group dinner this year. The vaccines that seem to be on the horizon can’t help you if you get sick now.”

On Monday, Pritzker said it’s “impossible” to know what the state’s coronavirus figures will look like later in December ahead of Christmas.

“How will it look on Dec. 20th or 25th, I can’t tell you,” Pritzker said. “This virus tends to surprise everybody.”

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