CHICAGO (CBS) — In his latest bid to curb the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker said new statewide restrictions will go into effect on Friday; including tighter limits for retailers, and requiring museums, theaters, and casinos to close, though he stopped short of declaring a new stay-at-home order.
The governor said the new restrictions are based on a simple premise: “If you don’t need to do it, don’t.”
Under the new Tier 3 resurgence mitigations, retail businesses including big box stores like Target and Walmart, will be limited to 25% of normal capacity, while traditional grocery stores and pharmacies will stay at 50% capacity.
Salons, barber shops, and other personal care services where clients and employees can wear masks the entire time can stay open at no more than 25% capacity. Services such as facials and beard trims, where people must remove their masks, must be suspended.
Casinos, museums, and theaters would be required to close altogether. Video gambling machines statewide also would have to shut down.
Gyms would be allowed to remain open, but group classes would be prohibited, leaving them only with the option for scheduled individual workouts.
Indoor recreational activities such as youth, club, and adult sports would have to pause.
Outdoor group activities would be limited to 10 people or less, and everyone must wear face coverings at all times.
All workplaces that are able to do so should have their employees work remotely.
Schools would be allowed to remain open under existing Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. It would be up to each local school district to decide whether to allow in-person learning, or rely on remote learning or a hybrid model.
Pritzker said people also should not attend dinners, events, gatherings, or meetings with people beyond their own household.
“This is not a stay-at-home order, but the best way for us to avoid a stay-at-home order is to stay home. We are asking you to choose Zoom, instead of packing people in a room for Thanksgiving. Make alterations to your routines now so that we can be together later,” he said.
The governor said public health officials will rely on people to hold themselves and their neighbors accountable.
“The more we can avoid gatherings now, especially indoors with the people we don’t already live with, the more likely we are to be able to celebrate the December holidays with less risk to our loved ones and ourselves,” he said.
In order to move back to Tier 2 mitigations, and lift most of these new restrictions, individual regions of the state would have to get their seven-day average test positivity rate below 12% for at least three days in a row, have at least 20% of their hospital beds and intensive care unit beds available for at least three days in a row, and see declines in 7-day average COVID hospitalizations for at least 7 of the past 10 days.
The new restrictions were announced just hours after the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,601 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as well as 97 additional deaths. It was the 12th day in a row Illinois has reported at least 10,000 new cases.
The statewide seven-day average case positivity rate now stands at 12.5%, down slightly from the 13.2% rate reported on Friday, but still more than triple the case positivity rate of 3.5% at the start of October.
As of Monday night, 5,887 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Illinois, a new record. Illinois is averaging 5,431 coronavirus hospitalizations per day over the last week, up from an average of about 1,500 per day at the start of October. During the first wave of the pandemic, the state peaked at an average of 4,822 hospitalizations per day in early May.
“Our region is once again in the throes of the worst of this coronavirus pandemic,” Pritzker said.
The governor said current projections estimate ICU and non-ICU hospital occupancy by COVID patients could reach five times the previous records during the spring.
“We can alter our trajectory significantly if we take real action, both on the individual and policy level right now,” he said.
Pritzker said, without additional mitigations, daily deaths might match those seen during the first wave in the spring, and could reach 4 to 5 times the level of the first surge.
“Without new interventions projections show between 17,000 and 45,000 additional deaths between now and March 1st of 2021, assuming hospitals are able to continue providing the optimal level of care,” Pritzker said. “We can’t let that happen.”
Illinois Public Director Dr. Ngozi acknowledged the new restrictions would be frustrating, but she said they’re necessary to curb the spread of the virus.
“People are going to be upset, people are going to be downright angry. Right now this virus has backed us into a corner, and we are left making insanely difficult and weighty decisions. We all want to get back to normal, but we can’t get back there just yet,” she said.
Ezike said she already has received calls from some hospitals that they have run out of beds.
“We anticipated it, and we warned about it, and we all knew it was coming. The second wave is now here, but it’s not only here, it’s more dire than what we saw in the spring,” Ezike said.
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