By Jermont Terry

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois’ top doctor, Ngozi Ezike, publicly broke down in tears during a briefing Friday. She has given the same kind of briefing while stone-faced countless times over the last eight months.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ezike has stood before the cameras delivering the latest COVID-19 numbers in Illinois. For months her poise, whether in English or Spanish, offered insight as to how Illinois is doing in this COVID-19 fight, or as Ezike calls it, a long marathon.

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“This is a difficult race when you can’t actually see the end point,” she said. “I’m sorry that’s the message I have for you.”

The message brought the doctor to get a lump in her throat and pause.

“We are reporting 3,000 new cases for a total… oh, excuse me,” she said.

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She wiped away tears when revealing more than 9,000 Illinoisans won’t be around this Thanksgiving.

The governor stood by, offering socially distant support before Ezike regained her composure. Then Pritzker offered a response to the harsh criticism Ezike has taken, including a rally in a park near her house during the pandemic.

“She’s subject to verbal attacks, protesters showing up to her home,” he said. “People have the right to do that, but they should take into consideration this is a very difficult job she has.”

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Ezike begged people to fight social distance fatigue and to not let their guards down. She added to wear a mask, even around family if necessary.