Pritzker warns of 'significantly greater mitigations' if COVID numbers keep rising

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday warned that if coronavirus numbers continue to rise across the state, he would have to impose "significantly greater mitigations."

"We’re consistently looking at the menu of options that we may need to impose in order to bring down the numbers. I will remind you that if we are not able to bring these numbers down, if hospitals continue to fill, if the hospital beds and ICU get full like they are in Kentucky — that’s just next door to Illinois. If that happens, we’re going to have to impose significantly greater mitigations," Pritzker said during a press conference.

"Those are things we don’t want to go back to," he added. "But right now, we want everybody to wear a mask, everywhere indoors, and we’ve recommended that. That’s what the CDC has recommended."

Hospitals nationwide are running out of ICU beds because of the spike in COVID cases. Now, that might soon be a problem in Illinois.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the state because of the delta variant. A few regions in Cook County, and up in Lake and McHenry counties, are all seeing a decrease in hospital bed availability.

Catie Schmit, Chief Nurse Executive at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital, says they are dusting off their COVID "Incident Command Team" and meeting every couple of hours. She calls the rising COVID numbers an all-hands-on-deck situation.

"Today, great example, we are at 125-percent capacity of our hospital. It includes both the intensive care beds and med/surge beds. So really what we're doing today is we're opening up alternate care spaces so that we can care for the community," Schmit said.

The majority of COVID patients, she says, is unvaccinated people and a mix of older and younger patients.

Region 10 and 11 — which is Cook County and Chicago — are also seeing a decrease in ICU bed availability. Both only have 18-percent of ICU beds currently available.


Governor Pritzker also responded to a question regarding withdrawing funding from schools that do not mandate masks be worn in their buildings.

QUESTION: "Are you really going to withdraw funding, take away their sports and deny their high school diplomas or was that just an idle threat?"

"Am I really going to do that? Yes, we are really going to do that," Pritzker said. "What I would tell you is that it’s extraordinary important we keep our kids safe. Remember, the numbers are going up before schools went back in session … look at all the other states around the country, where schools have reopened and now you’ve seen schools close right back up again or have massive numbers of kids who need to stay at home because they’ve caught COVID or they’ve been exposed to COVID."

"So let’s get serious about this," he added. The reality is, the vast majority of people in Illinois want to make sure that the children of Illinois, their parents, their communities are safe … and having a mask mandate operative in schools, it will help to do that."

On Tuesday, Chicago health officials added four states to its COVID-19 travel advisory, raising the total number to 43 states and two territories.

In Illinois, 37 counties and Chicago are now at a "warning level" for ICU bed availability, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nearly all counties across Illinois are seeing "high" community transmission of COVID-19.

The U.S. average daily case rate per 100,000 residents is 37.5, up from 32.7 a week ago, the health department said.