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Coronavirus

Pritzker: Virus is worse in southern Illinois than Chicago

College parties, crowded bars help spread COVID-19 among young people

Gov. JB Pritzker speaks Tuesday at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, warning that southern Illinois now has a greater COVID-19 outbreak than Chicago.
Gov. JB Pritzker speaks Tuesday at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, warning that southern Illinois now has a greater COVID-19 outbreak than Chicago.

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SPRINGFIELD – The novel coronavirus is worse in southern Illinois than it is in the Chicago area, and college parties thrown by returning students risk exacerbating the spread of COVID-19, Gov. JB Pritzker said at an appearance at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale Tuesday.

“I'm here today because the COVID-19 pandemic, which once seemed tame in Carbondale and throughout the entire region, is now surging here,” Pritzker said at the SIU student center. “It's worse than in Chicago, and I'll be frank, if we don't see some change here the virus will cause some businesses to close and an increasing percentage of people to get sick, and some will even die.”

Pritzker said Jackson County, where Carbondale is located, is one of 11 counties in warning territory according to state metrics.

Southern Illinois’ Region 5 of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan had a test positivity rate of 7.3 percent as of Aug. 1, while the Region 4 Metro East area on the Missouri border had a rate of 7.2 percent. Those were pushing the 8-percent threshold which would initiate state action to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The state reported another 1,471 confirmed cases of the virus Tuesday among 42,598 test results reported in the previous 24 hours. That drove the statewide seven-day positivity rate to 3.9 percent – a decrease of one-tenth of a percentage point since Monday – and made for a one-day positivity rate of 3.5 percent.

If a region hits the 8 percent positivity rate for three days, or if the positivity rate increases for seven of 10 days along with sustained seven-day increase in hospital admissions, it would also initiate mitigation efforts. Those include moving some sectors of the economy back to restrictions seen in previous phases of the state’s reopening plan.

Pritzker said it is important for local governments to take mitigation action as cases rise. He commended the Carbondale City Council for passing a face mask mandate that could allow for fines.

“I was very encouraged though, to see that just a few days ago the Carbondale City Council unanimously approved a city ordinance to enforce our statewide masked mandate, and that the county state's attorney is supporting the enforcement of mitigation at bars and restaurants,” Pritzker said.

The other regions range from 3.1 percent in eastern Illinois to 6.4 percent in Kankakee and Will Counties. Region 11, which includes all of Chicago, had a 4.9 percent positivity rate.

Pritzker warned that even though the virus has a 95 percent recovery rate for those 42 days removed from a positive diagnosis, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, health effects can often be long lasting, even for those that were otherwise healthy.

“We also need all of our residents to take this seriously and to protect themselves,” he said. “No matter how young and invincible you might think you are, the largest increase in cases is occurring among young people in their 20s and below. This virus is dangerous no matter how young you are because of the long-term damage it can cause you.”

Pritzker noted that a 28-year-old underwent a double lung transplant at Northwestern University earlier this year due to complications of the virus.

“Yes, the odds are high that a young person won't die from COVID-19, but you don't want to be the reason that someone else does, and you don't want to live with the long-term consequences of COVID-19 either,” he said.

Jackson County Health Department Administrator Bart Hagston said over the past 21 days Jackson County saw 287 new cases of COVID-19, representing 44 percent of the county’s total cases to date.

“Almost 70 percent of those new cases during this timeframe have been in young adults, those in their teens and late 20s,” Hagston said.

Some of the outbreaks in Jackson County originated at parties held by students coming back early for orientations and athletics, the governor said.

“I know that coming back to college is a celebratory time for so many young people, but I can't emphasize enough that we need everybody to do their part in the fight against this pandemic,” Pritzker said. “Large gatherings and large unmasked gatherings in particular are a no go.”

Another 19 COVID-19-positive individuals were reported to have died in the previous 24 hours, bringing the death count since the pandemic began to 7,545 among 184,712 confirmed cases.

Hospitalizations were near their pandemic lows but showing a gradual increase in recent weeks, especially in intensive care unit bed usage. The numbers reported by IDPH fluctuate sometimes by 100 or more daily for total hospital bed usage, but at the end of Monday there were 1,496 hospital beds in use by COVID-19 patients. That’s the highest that number has been since July 8.

The number of intensive care unit beds in use by COVID-19 patients reached 365 at the end of Monday, the highest that number has been since there were 384 on June 30. There were 125 ventilators in use by COVID-19 patients, which was just off the pandemic low of 110 on July 24.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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