coronavirus illinois

Pritzker Warns College Students Returning to School of COVID-19 Risks

"Residents must take this seriously, no matter how young and invincible you think you are."

As coronavirus cases spike among young people at Southern Illinois University, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a warning to college students returning to campus this fall.

Prizker, accompanied by Jackson County health officials, explained Tuesday that college-age people are likely spreading the virus at the highest rates, specifically on campus.

As more SIU students returned to school over the past weeks, Carbondale in Jackson County has seen a surge in coronavirus cases for those in their 20s and younger.

"Residents must take this seriously," Pritzker said. "No matter how young and invincible you think you are."

Pritzker said the house parties held by SIU students are likely causing the surge in cases. Health officials said they will discuss with campus police the most effective way to handle the large gatherings.

Though Pritzker said young people have a low chance of dying from coronavirus complications, he warned that many students continue to have repercussions and cannot return to activities such as sports.

Pritzker added that young people run the risk of spreading the virus to adults who could have a worse reaction to COVID-19.

Jackson County is one of 11 counties in Illinois that are now at a "warning level" for coronavirus, the state's health department said Friday. The warning means each of the counties saw increases in two or more COVID-19 "risk indicators," the health department said.

The counties now under a warning include: Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair, and White.

The counties each "saw outbreaks associated with business operations and activities posing higher risk for disease spread, including school graduation ceremonies, a rise in cases among late teens and 20s, parties and social gatherings, people going to bars, long-term care outbreaks, clusters of cases associated with restaurants and churches, and big sports events including soccer, golf, and softball tournaments," the health department stated. 

With cases increasing, Pritzker said state and local health officials will work with universities to ensure the return to campus is safe amid growing coronavirus concerns.

Dr. Allison Arwady, director of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Tuesday that the age group representing the most new coronavirus cases in the city is those between 18 to 29.

"That's very different than what we were seeing early on where we were seeing case rates being much, much higher and people over 70, even people over 80 leading to a lot of hospitalizations and unfortunately, a lot of deaths," Arwady said. "This has now flipped."

Arwady echoed Pritzker in saying the younger people with coronavirus are now spreading it to older generations, who are more at risk.

"Here in Chicago, this looks like people in their 20s or in their 30s, spreading it to people, their parents, their grandparents, their neighbors who may be in their 50s, their 60s, their 70s, their 80s. In turn, that can lead to increases in hospitalization," Arwady said.

In July, cases among residents between the ages of 10 and 19 were rising to rates that haven’t been seen thus far in the pandemic, according to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health,

“You’ve never seen this high rate for the 10-to-19 (demographic),” she said during a press conference. “That is new in terms of the numbers climbing over time. They’re now at the highest rate they’ve ever had from the beginning of this pandemic.”

While Ezike says she understands that teens and young adults want to go out and to see their friends, she says that if the current increase in cases continues, it could put a return to in-person instruction in schools in jeopardy.

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