SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Governor Pritzker announced this week that the state’s COVID-19 public health emergency is ending. It will go into effect May 11 to align with the end of the federal government’s emergency measures.
“Our state’s disaster proclamation and executive orders enabled us to use every resource at our disposal from building up testing capacity and expanding our healthcare workforce to supporting our vaccine rollout and mutual aid efforts,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said.
That also expanded Medicaid, EBT, and SNAP benefits. Extra SNAP benefits will end after February.
“Let me be clear: COVID-19 has not disappeared. It is still a real and present danger to people with compromised immune systems—and I urge all Illinoisans to get vaccinated or get their booster shots if they have not done so already,” Pritzker said.
Once the national emergency measures ends, officials have said the costs of vaccines are expected to go up as the federal government’s program to buy vaccines comes to an end.
Across the state, business leaders, doctors and even the Illinois State Museum are looking back on the three years of the pandemic.
“It was a scary and stressful time, and people were feeling isolated remaining at home,” Erika Holst, the curator of history at the museum, said. “Giving people an outlet like, ‘I am going to take that photograph, or create this piece of art’ or whatever to process what they were feeling, and then collect it for the museum so people could see what other folks were going through in real time was really cool.”
The museum created a digital collection of items that people submitted during the pandemic to preserve those stories and memories for people to see.
That includes artwork and journals of people’s thoughts about living through the pandemic.
“This woman wrote down all her thoughts for almost two years during the depths of the pandemic, and now we have it and can really recreate almost day by day what her experience was, through her own words,” Holst said.
Holst said some also brought items to the museum like masks.
“Masks are a part of life now,” Holst said. “I’ve never in my life worn a surgical mask, but now it’s like, oh, ‘I’ve got a cold, I’m going to put on a mask.’”
Doctors and other healthcare workers who were on the frontlines also reflected on their experiences during the pandemic.
“How scared physicians and staff were of this virus, and the amount of protective layers and masks and advanced masks that we used, compared to today, we are much more relaxed, and we obviously, take care of patients that might have COVID,” Dr. Joseph Calvo, an emergency department physician at OSF Sacred Heart in Danville, said.
Calvo said their hospital system is more prepared to handle COVID-19 cases and that the hospital has worked to improve supply chain issues when it comes to acquiring personal protective equipment. He also said he believes OSF will continue to use telehealth and other digital ways of connecting with patients that have been used throughout the pandemic.
“I think it’s helpful. I think it allows people to just have more access to health care,” Calvo said. “I’m hopeful that we continue to kind of embrace this technological aspect and that we have more of a digital kind of landscape of development.”
Meanwhile, businesses are still recovering from how the pandemic impacted the job industry.
Ryan McCrady, the president and CEO of the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance, said there’s about 3,000 fewer people in the national labor force than there was before COVID-19.
But McCrady said the job numbers in Springfield have improved compared to this time last year with 3,000 more people employed. Still, he said many employers are looking for more workers especially in hospitality and food service as many people left those industries.
“Hopefully, now that the executive order is finished, maybe people will feel more comfortable working in those industries, and feel more sure that there won’t be an interruption in their employment,” McCrady said.