Illinois' top public health official, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, became visibly emotional Friday, urging people to "stay strong" as the state battles a resurgence of coronavirus cases and looks for solutions to fight the pandemic.
"The way we work, the way we live, the way we play has all changed," she stated during a daily coronavirus news briefing alongside Gov. J.B. Pritzker. "And the harsh reality is that the sacrifices we've made, and that we continue to make, do not have a future expiration date."
Regions 7 (Will and Kankakee counties) and 8 (DuPage and Kane counties) both exceeded the 8% positivity rate threshold for three consecutive days, automatically triggering enhanced mitigation efforts.
Noting that hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase in Illinois, Ezike acknowledged COVID-19 has created a "horrible situation" and continues to take a mental, social and emotional toll on people.
"...This is a difficult race when you can't actually see the end point, and I'm sorry that that's the message I have for you," the IDPH director said. "Nevertheless, I'm asking you to fight the fatigue."
During the daily news briefing, Ezike begged Illinois residents to "think beyond ourselves," and continue to practice key mitigation strategies such as social distancing, wearing masks and limiting the number of people at social gatherings.
"...Think about the people that we could unknowingly infect, who may not be as fortunate to have the immune system and the healthy status that you may have," she said. "... But we do have a choice... We can do these things so that we don't hurt those around us."
Following Ezike's passionate plea, Pritzker called her "superwoman," stating the doctor has worked nonstop since the beginning of the pandemic, even revealing that Ezike has been subjected to verbal attacks and protests outside her home.
"People have a right to do that," Pritzker said. "But people should take into consideration that this is a very difficult job that she has, and she is doing it in a way that we should all be so proud of."
Instead of groups being pitted against one another, Ezike said, residents should work together to fight the virus and think about health care workers, who again, are risking their lives to help patients.
"Putting our people through this again, it's unfortunate, and I'm desperate to find the message that will work," she said. "I'm looking for someone to tell me what the message is so that we can do what it takes to turn this around."