Illinois avoided a "significant surge" following the Thanksgiving holiday, the state's top doctor said Friday.
"I am really excited, I am really happy to say that we did not see the significant surge that we were very much concerned about in relation to all the reports that we saw of the large amount of travel for here in the state of Illinois," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "I think people know that in the Midwest, generally, while others on the coasts are surging, I think we had that a little bit earlier and are on the way down and I think all the mitigations that we had in place in advance of Thanksgiving have been helpful. So no, we did not see a surge following Thanksgiving."
Similar to Thanksgiving, state officials are urging people to avoid holiday gatherings and travel.
According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the mitigations put in place ahead of Thanksgiving will remain, despite state metrics continuing on a downward trend.
Pritzker said Friday that while the numbers "seem to be heading in the right direction," state officials are "concerned the numbers have not come down as precipitously as we would have liked to have seen by now."
He has previously said that potential holiday gatherings remain a concern across the state.
"They should know that we're following the science. As I said, when I talked about this a couple weeks ago, not just Dr. Fauci, but the whole, you know, raft of doctors that we rely upon for their good advice as we move forward with this novel coronavirus are saying that we need to be deeply concerned about the gatherings that people may have around the holidays," Pritzker said. "And so that's that's why we made the decisions that we did."
Pritzker acknowledged that such restrictions could be lifted after the holidays, however, if the area doesn't see a surge and regions remain below the threshold.
"It's certainly our intention as we get through these holidays to begin to look at, you know, without having holidays ahead, right after the New Year to get to reducing the tiers for various of our regions," he said.
The death toll of the coronavirus pandemic in Illinois surpassed the grim milestone of more than 15,000 lives lost on Friday as the state reported an additional 181 deaths and 7,377 new confirmed and probable cases.
According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Friday's figures bring the total number cases of the virus to 886,805 and the number of deaths to 15,015 statewide.
The rolling seven-day positivity rate on all tests conducted during that span is currently at 8.0%, a decrease from the day before, while the positivity rate for residents tested for the virus is at 9.7%, officials say.
Hospitalizations related to the virus declined again to 4,690, with 1,023 of those patients occupying ICU beds and 589 on ventilators, according to health officials.
Many have expressed optimism with the start of vaccinations for coronavirus in Illinois, including Pritzker, who said earlier this week that vaccinations mark "the beginning of a process that allows us to move toward reopening the state entirely."
But how long that process will take remains unclear.
"The length of time, you know, as you talk to the experts what they would say is the manufacturing process will take some time so they can deliver them as fast as they can," Pritzker said. "But months will go by here while we are working through the ACIP/CDC guidelines first for health care workers and those in longterm care facilities and then the many others that are in the various phases... until we get herd immunity. That's what we're all aiming for for the state of Illinois and the United States of America."
The number of vaccinations administered in Illinois by Friday was more than five times higher than the number reported just one day earlier.