Calling it a “make or break moment” for Chicago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that recent increases in coronavirus numbers illustrate the need to take concerted action to keep the city from returning to a place where it is once again a hotspot for the coronavirus.
Pritzker, hosting a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday, was asked about a recent report that indicated that Chicago was one of several major cities that could see a spike in coronavirus cases in coming months if mitigation efforts aren’t undertaken quickly.
“You’ve seen me and heard me say that this is a make or break moment for Illinois and the city of Chicago. We’re doing everything we can in this process,” he said.
The governor was specifically asked about models published by PolicyLab, a think tank at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Those models, whose findings were published in the Daily Beast, predicted that Chicago, Baltimore and Boston all could potentially become coronavirus hotspots as the country moves into autumn.
According to models published by PolicyLab, residents of the Chicago metro area are not “social distancing at anything near the rate needed to curb the spread” of coronavirus, and also cited modest, but not sufficient, reductions in visits to non-essential businesses, as the basis for their theory that Chicago could see a spike in cases.
While Chicago isn’t seeing the type of positivity rate increases that other areas of the state are, increasing from 4.8% to 5% over the last two weeks, Pritzker says that keeping ahead of the curve in terms of a spike in cases is a key to avoid fresh outbreaks in an area.
“We’re encouraging local efforts at mitigations, because that can have an enormous impact,” he said. “That’s why the rule we got passed is so important. That’s one more step in a series of steps along a path to make sure we don’t become a hotspot.”
That new rule will allow local law enforcement and health departments to give warnings to businesses violating state coronavirus orders, including mask mandates and social distancing guidelines. The rule was upheld by a group of Illinois legislators this week, paving the way for businesses to be assessed fines if they fail to comply with the restrictions.
That news comes as the state’s 7-day positivity rate hovers around 4.1%, with numerous areas seeing an increase in cases and positivity rates.
Those increases have caught the attention of health officials, including Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who says that individual mitigation efforts can have a huge impact on limiting the spread of the virus.
“At the beginning of May, we saw the number of people going to the ER decrease, but since July, that number has started increasing again,” she said. “The number of cases is increasing. The positivity rate is increasing. These are facts,” she said. “Let’s do what’s right. Let’s protect ourselves and protect each other. What do we have to lose?”