‘Not A Good Sign’: Pritzker Says Indoor Mask Mandate Still Needed

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CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the number of people arriving in Illinois hospitals with COVID-19 is too high to relax the statewide indoor mask mandate he issued with an executive order in August.

Speaking to reporters after receiving a Pfizer booster shot at Mile Square Health Center in Chicago, the governor indicated that the number of boosters administered was also a factor in his decision to keep the mandate in place.

“We’re making this decision every day,” Pritzker said. “I mean, we look at the numbers. I talk to the doctors at IDPH and especially Dr. Ezike, and what we’re trying to evaluate is are the hospitalization numbers, for example, increasing, decreasing, staying the same. We want them decreasing. They’re not currently, just to be clear.”

The statewide metrics portion of the IDPH website, which includes the number of new hospital admissions for “COVID-19-like-illness,” only includes data from the most recent four weeks. There were 153 such new admissions on Oct. 3 and 116 on Oct. 30, with most of the decline coming in the first half of the month.

“New hospitalizations are flat. That is not a good sign. That’s not what’s happened in previous dips from surges,” Pritzker said. “We went down for a while here, but now we’ve leveled out at a level that is much higher than the summer. And so the question is, is that just a temporary situation? Are we going to start heading downward in those numbers?”

The overall number of people hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19 cases went from 1,747 on Oct. 5 to 1,274 on Nov. 1, a decline of more than 27 percent in less than a month, according to the latest available IDPH hospital utilization data.

That includes 294 people in intensive care units and 980 people in other hospital beds. A total of 5 percent of the state’s overall hospital beds are occupied by patients with COVID-19 or those under investigation as possible coronavirus cases.

The governor said the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots is also a factor in maintaining the indoor mask mandate.

“Are we actually protecting people more and more? Are they getting their first shots? Are people getting vaccinated and are boosters widespread, particularly among older people? Because that’s where we’ve seen breakthrough disease has sometimes taken lives at a higher rate than in other age groups, and so we want to make sure that boosters are getting out there, especially to seniors in long-term care facilities or nursing homes,” Pritzker said.

According to IDPH vaccination data, 72 percent of the Illinois populated aged 12 or older has received at least one dose of a vaccine. More than 67 percent are considered fully vaccinated, with two-doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson, which was what Pritzker received in March. No data on the number of booster doses administered was available on the IDPH website.

Pritzker has previously said he would like to see the mask mandate lifted in time for the holiday season.

“So this is all in the mix of consideration,” the governor said. “Most importantly of course — just overall — if hospitalizations are heading downward, if the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 is heading downward, that’s a really good sign and means that we’re getting more and more optimistic about removing indoor mask mandates outside of the schools.”

Chicago’s top public health official, Dr. Allison Arwady, said last week during an online broadcast that the number of new cases in the city remained too high to allow people to safely remove masks indoors without the risk of needing to require them again.

Related:

Patch

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November 2, 2021 at 05:25PM

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