Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday Illinois' COVID-19 metrics must be on a "good downward trajectory" before he'll decide whether to rescind the mask mandate that was reinstated in late August due to a rapid rise in cases.
Addressing reporters Monday, Pritzker pointed to progress in the declining number of new hospitalizations, but said the number of existing patients hospitalized with COVID-19 remains steady.
As of Oct. 1, a total of 1,687 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across Illinois, a slight decrease from the number of patients reported in mid-September, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The average has remained relatively flat in the past week.
New hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been on a downward trend for approximately a month, with 234 patients reported on Sept. 4 compared to 159 on Oct. 1.
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With hospitalizations trending upward, Pritzker reissued the state's mask mandate, saying then Illinois was "running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds." Weeks later, the worrisome scenario became reality in southern Illinois as zero of 88 staffed intensive care units beds were said to be available.
The situation has slightly improved since then, with the region reporting 7% of available ICU beds on Oct. 3, which is well below the 20% threshold instated by IDPH. As of Monday, eight of Illinois' 11 health care regions were reporting an ICU bed availability of under the threshold.
Improvements in the daily case rate have been reported in weeks, with the most recent seven-day average, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, at 2,743 cases compared to 2,863 cases from a week prior.
Despite the recent progress in some areas, Pritzker said Illinois' hasn't reached the metrics that were met in June when the state reentered Phase 5, the final reopening stage.
At the time, the state had a positivity rate of just 1.3% on tests, and 764 people were said to be hospitalized with COVID, one of the lowest numbers reported during the pandemic. The test positivity rate Monday was reported at 2.7%.
In hope of reducing metrics yet again, Pritzker has called on residents to employ best mitigation practices including getting vaccinated and wearing masks indoors.
Statewide, nearly 65% of those 12 years old and up have been fully vaccinated, according to IDPH data.