Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned Tuesday that stricter mitigations could return for areas seeing a rise in COVID cases.
"I believe strongly that we will impose mitigations as it's appropriate, where it's appropriate," Pritzker said in a one-on-one interview with NBC Chicago's Mary Ann Ahern Tuesday.
Calling on anyone who is unvaccinated to get vaccinated, Pritzker said the state continues to monitor COVID metrics like positivity rate, case numbers and hospitalizations.
"It is always a difficult thing for me," he said. "I wake up every morning and I look at those numbers and when they're rising, you know, that's a bad day, and I want to do whatever I can to mitigate that. So that's included making sure testing is widely available, making sure that the vaccines are widely available, and I'll continue to do that and if we need to take stricter mitigations we will."
Some parts of Illinois, particularly regions bordering Missouri, have seen a spike in cases in recent weeks.
"We're seeing a surge we didn't expect," Pritzker said. "The delta variant is challenging. Our next neighbor, Missouri, is the worst state in the country and that bleeds over into Illinois. It has in southern Illinois and Metro East you've seen an awful lot of people have gotten sick or gone to the hospital."
Data has show areas of western and southern Illinois are seeing increases in positivity rates and coronavirus-related hospitalizations. The state's top doctor has said the rising numbers correlate to vaccination rates in those areas.
"There is a very clear connection between where those case rates are growing the fastest and how well that area is vaccinated, i.e. the more highly vaccinated areas are having lower case rates," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in an interview last week.
She noted that the growing delta variant has a higher transmissibility that impacts more people at a time than previous variants. Within weeks, Ezike said Illinois has seen COVID cases double statewide.
As the delta variant continues to spread, experts are continuing to push for more Americans to get the COVID vaccine. All three of the vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA, have shown to be largely effective against preventing serious illness and death due to COVID, and all three companies say that their vaccines are showing promise in preventing those outcomes with the delta variant as well.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she was "sounding the alarm" Tuesday due to a recent uptick in coronavirus cases across the city, warning of the potential for returning mitigations if the trend continues.
"If we allow the virus to continue to linger here in Chicago we will likely see further mutations, some of which our current vaccines may not be able to protect against and have to reinforce some of the restrictions that have come to infamously define much of 2020, and part of 2021," Lightfoot said during a coronavirus update alongside city health officials. "The reality is this scenario - the worst case - is entirely preventable, and that's because we have three different vaccines readily available to all of our residents, which offer very good protection against delta, and other new variants."
Lightfoot's remarks come at a time where the average daily number of new cases in Chicago is up to 90 per day - a 69% increase over last week.
The city's average daily case rate was at 41 per day the week before that, meaning it's more than doubled in roughly two weeks - though it is still significantly lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing earlier this year and last, before vaccines were widely available.
Hospitalizations and deaths are down in Chicago - 11% and 13%, respectively, since last week - but the positivity rate in testing is up to 1.5% from 1% last week.
"I know a lot of you have hoped that COVID was behind us that you wouldn't see us up here talking again about numbers rising, you wouldn't hear that the positivity is back on the increase, that you wouldn't be hearing more updates the travel advisory, but unfortunately that's not the situation that we're in," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said.
She added that the she expects the delta variant will be the dominant variant in Chicago by next month "for sure."
Illinois officials say they plan to continue urging vaccinations in hopes of keeping the numbers from reaching even higher.
"For anybody listening who isn't vaccinated, please get vaccinated," Pritzker said. "It will save your life."