Warning that the COVID-19 strain first identified in the United Kingdom spreads easier, Illinois' top doctor on Friday continued to plead with residents to follow precautions including wearing masks, following social distancing and avoiding gatherings.
The Chicago Department of Health revealed hours earlier that the new, more contagious strain had been found in the city, marking the first known case in both Chicago and Illinois.
A CDPH investigation found that the individual had traveled to the UK and the Middle East in the 14 days prior to diagnosis, officials said, noting that the department had worked to identify the person's close contacts to alert them to quarantine and isolate.
Even with the discovery of the new strain, Pritzker announced three of the state's health care regions met the criteria to downgrade from Tier 3 mitigations.
"As we move towards opening back up, I want to remind people that although we have no evidence that this new variant causes more severe disease, or more death, early studies do show that this variant spreads easier and more quickly," Ezike said.
If the proper mitigations aren't followed, Ezike said, the new variant could sweep across Illinois, as it did in the U.K.
"That would lead us back to a place that we don't want to go," she stated.
The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to work with its academic and laboratory partners, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as researchers and physicians, to monitor for additional cases.
The British variant was first detected in September, World Health Organization officials previously announced. Since then, cases have skyrocketed across the U.K., resulting in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to impose a national lockdown.
The U.K. variant is one of two new contagious viral strains that have recently emerged, the CDC said in a telebriefing late last month. While evidence to date does not indicate either appears to result in more severe infections or higher death rates, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, Dr. Henry Walke, did warn that the heightened ease of transmission could translate to many more cases.