CHICAGO, Ill. (WCIA) — As the state wrestles an ever-increasing number of COVID-19 cases, casinos and museums across Illinois will close, and retail shops will be under capacity limits, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday.
The recommendations, set to take affect Friday, come after public health officials announced 12,601 additional coronavirus cases since Monday. Virus-related hospitalizations also hit a record Tuesday after 300 additional people were hospitalized with COVID-19, bringing the total to 5,887 people.
“There were predictions that we would have a fall resurgence that’s worse than the last spring’s —
Just like the 1918 Flu Pandemic,” Pritzker said. “And those predictions turned out to be accurate.
That’s true across the Midwest right now.”
Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Nogzi Ezike reiterated the severity, calling the second wave of the virus “dire.”
“More mitigation measures are being implemented,” she said. “The science is there and it’s pretty simple: If you’re not in the physical presence of other people the virus can’t spread to someone else.”
Aimed at curbing the rising number cases, which are surging all over the Midwest, the retail restrictions set capacity limits for big-box stores, such as Walmart or Meijer, at 25 percent, while medium-sized stores can maintain 50% capacity.
“We haven’t seen that much transmission in retail stores,” Pritzker said. “And so, again, you’re what the doctors are trying to do is measure the risk and then take action based upon how we can limit risk but still keep things going.”
Gyms will remain open but group fitness classes will be cancelled, per the new restrictions.
Figures shown during Pritzker’s COVID-19 briefing Tuesday showed that the state has seen 4.8 times more cases since a peak on May 5.
“Here’s what’s different from last spring by our experience, and by the good work of our scientists and doctors: We have a greater understanding of how to protect ourselves from this virus,” he said. “You have masks and we know they work. We know that keeping six feet of distance helps. We know gathering in our home with people who aren’t close family members is very risky. We know that large gatherings, especially when people are not wearing masks can be very dangerous. And there’s hope on the horizon, which became more real as of yesterday with the preliminary reports about success of a second, potentially effective vaccine candidate.”
But in the meantime, he said, the mitigations set to be in place this week are aimed at filling the gap in time between now and the mass distribution of a vaccine.
According to a release from the governor’s office, this includes the following mitigation efforts:
“For all regions, additional mitigation measures taking effect Friday, November 20th include guidance for the following settings and industries:
- Personal Car Services
- Health and Fitness Centers
- Bars and Restaurants
- Meetings and Social Events
- Organized Group Recreational Activities
- Indoor Recreation, Theater, Cultural Institutions
As they have since the start of COVID-19, grocery stores across the state will remain open and available. Child care facilities may continue to operate subject to guidelines from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. School districts and officials should continue to follow the extensive guidance released by the Illinois State Board of Education in August to make decisions related to in-person and remote learning at the local level.
To prevent the further spread of COVID-19, Illinois residents are urged to stay home as much as possible and celebrate upcoming holidays with members of their household. Illinoisans over the age of two years are required to wear a face covering when out in public and social distancing is not easily achievable. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been in contact with someone exhibiting symptoms should seek out testing and quarantine at home; anyone who has tested positive for the virus should isolate at home as directed by their physician or local health department.”
“Without new interventions projections show between 17,040 5000 additional deaths in Illinois. Between now and march 1 of 2021, assuming hospitals are able to continue providing the optimal level of care,” Pritzker said Tuesday. “That is one to four times what has been experienced between the beginning of the pandemic and today. We can’t let that happen.”
The governor also urged businesses affected by COVID-19 related slow-downs to apply for funding from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
When asked why the Tier 3 mitigations were put in place versus a full-blow Stay-At-Home order, Ezike called the situation “no-win.”
“What would you be saying if we said we were doing that?” she said. “Then there will be (comments) like, ‘Why do we have to close everything? We need to get our hair cut, we need to be able to take care of ourselves.’ I mean, there’s no way to win in this these are all impossible decisions. We have stepped back from a full stay at home order — that’s the final trigger, obviously, but if everyone cooperates with us on this, pause, we don’t have to go to the full extreme. I hope everybody sees how much we’re trying to give some people something wild trying to make sure that we protect the health and safety of the people of Illinois.”
Later Tuesday, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) released a statement supporting the governor’s move to implement increased mitigations.
“The Tier 3 mitigations announced today by Gov. J.B. Pritzker strikes the right balance between allowing access to retail services and the need to adjust safety measures in response to the latest science about how to address this virus. While additional capacity restrictions will impose significant hardship on retailers already devastated by the pandemic – especially during what is usually the busiest shopping time of the year – we are glad customers will continue to have numerous safe shopping options,” said IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr said in the statement. “It is our hope the same science that provides for safe shopping can soon be applied to restaurants and bars so they can again allow inside dining, albeit at a reduced capacity. …As the second largest revenue generator for the state and the largest for local governments, without a fully revived retail sector, Illinois faces a more dire future.”