Citing national health experts who've expressed concerns over the possibility of a post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases, Illinois' Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stern warning to residents Monday, saying the state's health care system could become overwhelmed if Illinoisans aren't careful.
Despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as pleas from health officials to celebrate virtually, large crowds and lines formed for several days at O’Hare International Airport as travelers departed Chicago for the holiday weekend.
At his daily coronavirus briefing Monday, Pritzker said no region will be downgraded from Illinois' Tier 3 mitigations in the upcoming weeks, even if they meet the threshold to move to other levels.
Pritzker said he came to the decision after discussions with local health experts and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who told the governor "this is no time to pull back on mitigations," with the nation gearing up for another potential surge.
While statewide metrics have offered a "hint of potential progress," Illinois officials said, the number of hospitalized patients fighting COVID-19 is 23% higher than the state's spring peak.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, has said the first sign of an additional surge will be an increase in cases one to two weeks after Thanksgiving.
Ezike urged anyone who believes they may be exposed during the holiday to wait seven days before getting tested, unless they are experiencing symptoms.
Pritzker added he hopes Illinois can fend off the surge in the next few weeks in order to get to a healthier holiday time in the second half of December.
"We are still very much in a precarious place, and we have got to take the time to
evaluate any Thanksgiving effect before we make any premature adjustments," he said.