JB Pritzker

Pritzker Welcomes Biden's COVID-19 Plan for Masks, Testing

Biden promised during the campaign that he would make testing for and tracing the virus free and widespread

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Illinois' Democratic governor on Monday welcomed Joe Biden's immediate response as president-elect to the coronavirus pandemic, signaling the incoming Democratic administration's plans could bring welcome health care assistance and relief from destruction caused by the virus.

Biden's first public comments after meeting with a newly formed coronavirus task force were to ask the nation to wear a face covering to slow transmission of the virus, something his defeated opponent, President Donald Trump, had often mocked. And Biden promised during the campaign that he would make testing for and tracing the virus free and widespread.

“I’ve been calling for a national mask mandate for some time,” Pritzker said at his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago. “Think about the states around us and the fact that they don’t have mitigations and many of those states, and that has an effect on Illinois where we do have a mask mandate.”

Pritzker, who openly bickered with Trump over the president's pandemic policies, reported no relief Monday in the second surge of the outbreak that has swamped the state since last winter. With 10,573 new infections of the highly contagious virus, it marked the fifth straight day of cases topping 10,000. There were 14 deaths, much lower than typical daily totals for recent weeks, but there have now been 10,210 and, barring some extraordinary shift, overall cases in Illinois should top 500,000 on Tuesday.

Hospitalizations stood at 4,409, 170% higher than they were on Oct. 1. Intensive care patients number 857, up 139% since Oct. and ventilator usage was up 152% at 376.

Testing continues to be an Illinois strong point. Its average of 84,000 the past seven days makes it third in the nation. There were 64,760 reported in the previous 24 hours Monday. As for Biden's pledge to expand testing and tracing, Pritzker said, “Even though Illinois is third in the nation in testing ... we need more.”

Test positivity in the state continues to rise, and while each of the 11 COVID_19 monitoring regions is under “resurgence mitigations ” because of high testing or hospitalization numbers, limiting bar and restaurant service to outdoors and gatherings to 25 people or 25% of capacity, three have now qualified for stricter restrctions The “second tier” of rules — limiting restaurant table sizes to six and prohibiting gaterings of more than 10 people — have applied to Region 1, northwestern Illinois, for a Monday. Starting Wednesday, Region 5, the southern tip of the state, and Regions 7 and 8, counties in south- and west-suburban Chicago, move into tier two as well.


Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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