Pritzker issues store crowd limits, theater, other closings — and a warning: ‘If you don’t need to do it, don’t’on November 17, 2020 at 9:56 pm

Calling it a crucial step to avoid a statewide stay-at-home order, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced a coronavirus crackdown for all of Illinois that includes closure of museums and casinos and capacity limits on major retail stores.

Large stores, such as Walmart or Target, will have their capacity limited to 25%, while typical grocery stores will remain under the 50% capacity limits that have been in place since March.

Though gyms will remain open, group fitness classes will be canceled. Services, such as facials, that require the removal of a mask are suspended under the new mitigations.

The new restrictions technically mark a statewide return to Tier Three of Pritzker’s COVID-19 plan, but the governor said it boils down to a simple idea:

“If you don’t need to do it, don’t.”

The mitigations “pause a number of indoor activities,” such as museums, theaters and casinos, “where the science shows us this virus can most easily spread,” Pritzker said.

The governor announced the new restrictions during his afternoon COVID-19 briefing. They are scheduled to take effect statewide at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Unlike the executive orders earlier this year, which lasted 30 days, there is no set time limit on the mitigations announced Tuesday. The end of the mitigations will depend on the metrics coming out of each region, Pritzker said.

“This is a temporary set of rules that are designed by doctors to keep you safe,” Pritzker said at his afternoon briefing.

“I’m hopeful that by limiting our in person interactions now we will succeed at avoiding a stay-at-home order like what we had last spring, when the choice between saving lives and saving livelihoods was even more stark,” Pritzker said.

The new restrictions follow public health officials announcing 12,601 more coronavirus cases across Illinois as a massive Midwest resurgence sends unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients into hospitals statewide.

The latest cases were detected among 94,205 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, keeping the seven-day average testing positivity rate at 12.5%.

But more than 300 additional hospital beds were taken up by coronavirus patients by Monday night compared to the previous night, reaching yet another record high of 5,887.

Nightly COVID-19 hospitalizations have now topped 5,000 for a full week. The state passed that mark on only one night during the first wave of the pandemic in May.

Other critical hospital metrics have been getting worse by the day for a full month, too, with 1,158 patients currently requiring intensive care and 545 using ventilators.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced 97 more deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus. The virus has claimed 587 Illinois lives over the last week alone, the state’s worst seven-day stretch since the springtime peak.

The latest victims include 36 Chicago-area residents. The state’s death toll has risen to 10,875.

The number of new cases the state is currently seeing is “more dire” than what the state saw in spring, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.

“If you take one or two out of the line, the dominoes start falling because there’s not something to hit,” Ezike said. “You’ve got to take things out of the line so there’s not something to hit.”

Stay-at-home advisories went into effect this week in Chicago and Cook County as officials try to rein in the unprecedented viral resurgence.

Illinois first topped 10,000 new cases in a day on Nov. 6 and has not fallen below that level since.

The state has logged almost 143,000 cases over that 12-day span, about as many as it did during the first four months of the pandemic combined. Nearly 598,000 people have contracted the virus in Illinois throughout eight months of the pandemic. Almost a third of those cases have come this month alone.

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With indoor bar and restaurant service already banned across the state, Pritzker had signaled more restrictions could be on the way. The Democratic governor is scheduled to deliver another COVID-19 update Tuesday afternoon.

Pritzker joined governors from six other Midwest states in a video public service announcement video calling on residents to avoid large Thanksgiving gatherings, to wear face masks and to maintain social distance.

“For eight months, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated American families everywhere. To fight this virus, governors across the country have listened to medical experts, stepped up, and worked around the clock to protect our families, the brave men and women on the front lines, and our small business owners,” the governors said in a joint statement. “And no matter the action we take, we understand that our fight against COVID-19 will be more effective when we work together,”

The bipartisan group comprises Pritzker, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer announced a series of stricter COVID-19 regulations for her state on Monday.

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