A SAD STATE OF AF­FAIRS

As Illi­nois an­nounces a sixth straight day of more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases, gov of­fers a sober­ing pre­dic­tion: We won’t re­turn to nor­mal un­til 2021

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY MADE­LINE KEN­NEY AND NEAL EAR­LEY Staff Re­porters Made­line Ken­ney re­ported from Chicago, Neal Ear­ley from Quincy.

QUINCY, Ill. — Con­sid­er­ing ditch­ing the mask? Think again.

The year that ev­ery­one can’t wait to be over won’t be end­ing any­time soon.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Mon­day that Illi­nois is un­likely to re­turn to nor­mal un­til some­time next year.

“We don’t have to do this for­ever,” the Demo­cratic gover­nor said at a news con­fer­ence at the Adams County Pub­lic Health Depart­ment in western Illi­nois. “We’re not there yet. And frankly, we’re not go­ing to be there un­til 2021, in my hum­ble opin­ion.

“I’m not a doc­tor, but that’s what my ob­ser­va­tion is, that we’re not go­ing to be able to take off the mask and go about ev­ery­thing we were do­ing seven, eight months ago for a few more months, maybe six-plus months.”

Pritzker’s sober­ing pre­dic­tion came as the state an­nounced its sixth straight day of more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases and a pos­i­tiv­ity rate that keeps creep­ing up.

Health of­fi­cials an­nounced an­other 1,276 peo­ple have tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus, bring­ing the state’s to­tal to 172,695 cases.

The new in­fec­tions were con­firmed among 30,567 test re­sults re­ported to the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, the sec­ond small­est batch of tests over the last 10 days, rais­ing the state’s seven-day pos­i­tiv­ity rate to 3.8%. That’s a 0.8% in­crease from last Mon­day, though the state re­mains well be­low the na­tional av­er­age of 8.2%, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity.

For weeks, Pritzker has been wor­ry­ing that what he has dubbed a “mild uptick” in COVID-19 cases could be a sign the state is “head­ing the wrong direc­tion.” Just last week he put four coun­ties at the “warn­ing level” for “risky be­hav­ior.”

Illi­nois’ daily case av­er­age in July swelled to 1,091 with Mon­day’s an­nounce­ment. While that num­ber is a 42.8% in­crease from June’s daily av­er­age of 764, it’s still a far cry from the peak month of May when the state av­er­aged more than 2,100 new cases a day.

De­spite the re­cent rise in in­fec­tions, the state’s death toll from COVID-19 re­mained rel­a­tively low, with only 18 ad­di­tional deaths re­ported Mon­day. That num­ber is a solid in­crease from Sun­day, when Illi­nois re­ported that just one per­son had died from the coro­n­avirus — the state’s low­est fa­tal­ity count in four months — but it fol­lows the monthly trend as the state is av­er­ag­ing about 18 coro­n­avirus-re­lated deaths per day.

Since mid-March, the coro­n­avirus has claimed 7,416 lives in Illi­nois.

On Mon­day, the same day In­di­ana’s statewide face mask man­date went into ef­fect, Pritzker met with lo­cal of­fi­cials in Quincy as part of a lo­cal push to get more peo­ple to wear face cov­er­ings.

The Mis­sis­sippi River city is the county seat of Adams County, one the four coun­ties on Pritzker’s warn­ing list. The other three are LaSalle in north-cen­tral Illi­nois, cen­trally lo­cated Peo­ria, and Ran­dolph in the Metro East re­gion near St. Louis.

While lead­ers in Quincy are con­sid­er­ing stricter en­force­ment of the state’s man­dated so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines, Pritzker took aim at coro­n­avirus skep­tics, say­ing the state won’t be over the pan­demic un­til at least 2021.

The Chicago Demo­crat called on lo­cal of­fi­cials to close or ticket bars that don’t ad­here to ca­pac­ity lim­its, as elected lead­ers have done in Chicago, Spring­field and Kanka­kee.

“And we’re count­ing on lo­cal res­i­dents to hold your elected lead­ers ac­count­able,” Pritzker

said. “De­mand that they take ac­tion — be­cause if they don’t, they’ll drive the en­tire re­gion back to closed bars and restau­rants and greater job losses, or even an­other stayat-home or­der.”

Mau­reen Kahn, pres­i­dent and CEO of Bless­ing Health Sys­tem in Quincy, urged peo­ple in Adams County to wear masks, as the COVID-19 case count is surg­ing and COVID-19 pa­tients are fill­ing her hos­pi­tal.

“We have seen more pa­tients in our hos­pi­tal beds in the last three weeks than we saw in March, April and May,” Kahn said. “And we are us­ing more drugs and more re­sources than we did in those months.”

“WE DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS FOR­EVER. WE’RE NOT THERE YET. AND FRANKLY, WE’RE NOT GO­ING TO BE THERE UN­TIL 2021, IN MY HUM­BLE OPIN­ION.” GOV. J.B. PRITZKER, on Illi­nois’ even­tual re­turn to nor­mal

SUN-TIMES IL­LUS­TRA­TION

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES FILE PHOTO

Gov. J.B. Pritzker ad­justs his face mask dur­ing a press con­fer­ence this month.

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