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Illinois, City Health Officials Give Thanksgiving Warning as Coronavirus Numbers Surge

Health officials throughout the state warn again against traveling for the upcoming holiday

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As Illinois breaks coronavirus records Thursday, health officials across the state warned against travel and promoted safety precautions for this Thanksgiving holiday.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the state recommends avoiding travel to areas of high risk, which she said "is almost everywhere."

"Let's be clear travel will increase your chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19 as well going to a crowded event as well having multiple people in your home for Thanksgiving," Ezike said.

Illinois' top doctor said almost every county in Illinois, almost every state in the nation and many countries across the world are of "high risk." She said even areas with less fewer cases still pose a risk.

Ezike warned that the decision to travel or host a large event for the holiday is ultimately up to the individual, but Illinois has safety tips provided on their website, along with a map of the highest risk places to go.

"I want to make sure that every person watching every person listening understands that there is significant potential for harm and death, this this be very plain," Ezike said. "And it's not just to yourself, for the people who feel nothing could ever happen to them. But it's to other members of your family and other people that you may not even know that you could unwittingly spread the virus to."

When flying, Ezike reminded people to keep in mind how to best navigate security lines, terminals and layover flights. She advised to take personal vehicles as much as possible when traveling and avoid public transportation.

"We all want to be with our friends and family for the holidays. But perhaps this holiday as we have already done for most of 2020 we are going to have to do it COVID style and that means virtual will have to stay at home and for go the large gatherings so that we will have future events that we can be with our friends and family," Ezike said.

Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady also warned Thursday against travel during the Thanksgiving holiday amid rising coronavirus metrics.

"Gathering around the time of Thanksgiving is not a safe proposition at this point. Broadly speaking, travel is also not a safe proposition at this point to the great majority of the U.S.," Arwady said.

Arwady added that more evaluation and information will be provided to the public closer to Thanksgiving.

Last monday, Arwady advised Chicagoans to avoid traveling as much as possible to lessen the spread of the coronavirus and take precautionary measures wherever possible.

"When we are coming from Chicago or from Illinois and traveling out, we are bringing a potential risk of COVID," Arwady said. "When people are coming to Chicago for most of the country at this point, they're bringing an elevated risk of COVID."

Arwady said she is not planning to travel this Thanksgiving unless the city sees significant improvements on their coronavirus tracking map of the area.

"I would encourage you, especially if you normally are getting together with people who are older or have underlying health conditions, to think seriously about whether this is the year for travel," Arwady said.

Arwady added that the health department is specifically concerned about college students who may travel around the country over the Thanksgiving holiday, potentially heightening the already surging coronavirus metrics.

"My hope is that a month from now we'll be in a better place. But that's not the way the numbers are heading now," Arwady said.

Arwady said the city is seeing an average of 1,395 cases per day along with an increase in the test positivity rate that currently stands at 10.9%.  

“Let’s turn these numbers into what this means for your life,” Arwady said during a press briefing. “Right now, if you take a random number group of people here in Chicago, you get 10 people together, there is a one in three chance that someone in that randomly selected group of 10 Chicagoans has COVID-19 right now.”

Illinois saw a record-high number of new coronavirus cases Thursday as the state simultaneously crossed a grim milestone and the positivity rate spiked once again.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 9,935 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, a record high for the pandemic so far, along with 97 additional deaths, the highest number since June 4.

The new fatalities lift the statewide death toll above 10,000, reaching 10,030 as of Thursday afternoon. Total cases statewide climbed to 447,491.

The new cases lifted Illinois' rolling seven-day positivity rate rise from 8.5% to 9.1, the highest mark the state has seen since at least late May when the state was on its way down from its first coronavirus cases peak.

The state says 86,015 test results have been returned to state labs in the last 24 hours, with 8,116,728 total tests performed during the pandemic.

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