Pritzker Expects 'Difficult' Memorial Day Weekend, Urges Caution

Jonah Meadows

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Heading into Memorial Day weekend, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike warned residents against holding the traditional gatherings that kick off the summer to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Ezike said local health departments have reported nearly 4,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 around Illinois. More than 1,000 patients are hospitalized, she said Friday afternoon at the governor's daily briefing on the state's response to the pandemic. Of those, 589 are currently on ventilators. About 90 percent of COVID-19 patients placed on ventilators succumb to the disease, according to studies of outcomes in New York hospitals.

"Those are truly heartbreaking facts. I know this weekend is supposed to unofficially kick off the summer season, and that traditionally included graduation parties and pool openings and the like," Ezike said. "And although it's unfortunate that we can't throw a barbeque with 100 of our friends, I think it's clear why we are in that situation."

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Ezike said it would take collective effort to make sure such gatherings can be held safely in the future.

"This is not an easy time, but until we have a vaccine and reliable treatment, we need to learn how to coexist with COVID," she said. "The virus is still out there, and your individual human behavior, including wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet of distance. Those are the weapons that we have right now to overcome this virus. Let's continue to hang in there. Let's continue to do the right thing."

State police are "well aware that this is going to be a difficult weekend," the governor said.

"I really want to provide a caution to all the people that are listening to please remind your friends and your family, I know that this is an unusual time, I ask you to take unusual precautions," Pritzker said. "Wear your face coverings, that may be the most important thing I can say to you. Wash your hands. Make sure you're not gathering in large groups with one another. It is time for us to do something unusual. Keeping each other safe is the most important thing that we can do, and so following those edicts, or those suggestions anyway, will keep your friends and family safe."

Pritzker also announced new guidance for the gradual reopening of child care facilities, all of which could be open as soon as next week with new safety precautions in place, including capacity limits.

After four weeks following new health and sanitation guidelines, previously closed facilities will be able to expand to more than 10 children per classroom, though still about 30 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to the governor's office.

This article originally appeared on the Springfield Patch