Pritzker implores local leaders across state to crack down on social gatherings during ‘COVID storm’

Coronavirus cases climb above 6,000 for seventh day. Sixty-eight deaths were reported in more than two dozen Illinois counties.

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People get tested for COVID-19 at the drive-thru testing site at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village in October 2020.

Illinois on Tuesday reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases for the seventh day in a row.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned local officials across the state to enforce restrictions on social gatherings or take responsibility for an even greater surge of COVID-19 infections that overwhelm hospitals and lead to more deaths.

“People all across the state need to stand up and make sure that they are doing everything they can locally — state’s attorneys, sheriffs, law enforcement and elected leaders — to enforce the rules here so we don’t end up with a terrible nightmare of a health care situation and people dying because they can’t even get treated in their local hospital,” Pritzker said at a Tuesday briefing. 

The governor made his comments regarding parties and banned indoor gatherings at bars and restaurants as the pandemic showed no sign of slowing down. State health officials reported 6,516 new cases of COVID-19 and 68 additional deaths.

The numbers mark the seventh day in a row the state has recorded more than 6,000 new cases. 

The number of deaths was the highest reported since Oct. 21 and showed that deaths were spread out over 29 counties across the state.

“We are in the middle of a COVID storm that appears to be sweeping the entire nation and our trajectory is only getting worse,” Pritzker said.

In Cook County, seven deaths were recorded, all men except for a woman in her 70s. The men ranged in age from their 50s to 90s.

The new numbers showed a wave of deaths beyond Cook and the collar counties, however. Outside the Chicago area, Winnebago County, which includes Rockford, reported eight deaths, for instance.

On Wednesday, the entire state, under Pritzker’s orders, will be operating under COVID-19 restrictions that include bans on indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars.

Pritzker’s restrictions on bars and restaurants have been criticized by business owners as too draconian. Some elected officials in Central Illinois now are reportedly pushing back against the governor’s orders. Asked to comment on locals turning a blind eye or openly defying his rules, Pritzker criticized the resistance, saying the same communities will need the state’s help if virus caseloads become unmanageable for individual health systems. 

“Those local officials and people who live in those areas will be coming to the state to ask us, what are we going to do to add hospital space when the hospitals are full?” Pritzker said.

In total, the state has recorded 430,018 cases since early this year and 9,878 deaths in 102 Illinois counties. 

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Positive cases as a percent of total tests for the past seven days was 8.2%, the state said. 

There were 3,594 people in Illinois hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Monday evening, state health officials said. Of that number, 755 patients were in intensive care and 326 were on ventilators. 

The cases were confirmed through 82,435 lab tests, health officials said. Almost 8 million tests have been run in Illinois.

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