Amid questions over whether his family will be celebrating in Florida, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he is still not sure where he will be for Thanksgiving, even as he and state officials urge residents to avoid travel and stay home for the holiday.
Pritzker was asked Monday about his holiday celebration plans and if he will spend Thanksgiving in Illinois.
"That is my hope. I will let you know," the governor said.
When asked about a report that his wife and family have already left for Florida, Pritzker did not directly address the questions, instead saying, “I think you already know we have a place in Florida.”
At the same time, a spokesperson responded by saying his office would "not address rumors."
"I don't know exactly what my plans will be. But I'll certainly, you know, be happy to share," Pritzker said during his daily briefing.
Chicago and suburban Cook County have issued stay-at-home advisories, effective Monday and continuing for 30 days, urging residents to avoid travel and gatherings with people who don't live in their home and to only leave for "essential activities." The Illinois Department of Public Health issued similar stay-at-home recommendations statewide.
Florida is currently listed in the orange "avoid travel" category under Chicago's travel order, meaning travelers would need to either quarantine when they arrive in Chicago, or have a pre-arrival negative coronavirus test.
Pritzker, who often travels by private plane, said he was not up to date on Chicago's stay-at-home advisory, although his Gold Coast mansion is located in the city limits.
“I did not see what the mayor put out [Monday] morning, I’ve been very busy, as you can imagine," he said.
The stay-at-home advisory was issued last week and was mentioned by the governor himself in his coronavirus briefing Thursday.
"I want to commend the mayor’s decision, because it’s never an easy one to make, but it’s the right one," he said at the time.
Illinois health officials, including Pritzker, have been urging families to avoid gathering for the holidays and to instead keep their celebrations virtual.
"If we wait to take action until our hospitals are full, it will be too late, and countless patients – COVID patients as well as those with all the other ailments and injuries that bring people to the hospital – will die unnecessary deaths because there aren’t enough beds or people to staff them," Pritzker warned Monday. "So we are keeping in close touch with hospitals on an individual, system-level and region-level basis to monitor who is at risk of running out of staff or ICU beds in the next three weeks. But I want to be clear. We can’t create new staff for a hospital that’s filled to the brim. We can’t staff more ICU beds if a hospital’s personnel get sick outside of work because people in their communities refuse to wear a mask or follow any of the mitigation rules.
"We can expect much worse to come if mitigation measures aren’t followed leading into Thanksgiving," he added.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike echoed those claims Monday, warning that "our hospitals are on their way to being overwhelmed."
"We can all see it things are getting worse and so those initial [Thanksgiving] plans that you made several months ago or several weeks ago, they may need to change," she said.
Illinois saw its hospitalization numbers continue to increase on Monday with 5,581 residents currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses. Of those patients, 1,144 are currently in intensive care units, and 514 are on ventilators.
All three statistics are the highest metrics the state has seen in their respective categories since the first peak in COVID-19 cases earlier this year.
Pritzker said he plans to hold a "Zoom Thanksgiving" this year.
"If we can, we'll do a Zoom Thanksgiving, with people, but most importantly, I think, you know, keeping in your own pod of close family, that's the best thing you can do," he said.