On Thursday, the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, issued a new, stricter statewide indoor mask mandate to control the spread of COVID-19 as cases rise due to the Delta variant. The state reported an average of 3500 new cases on Wednesday, as per the Illinois Department of Public Health records.
“I think a statewide mask mandate is necessary,” said Dr. Emily Landon, head of the University of Chicago’s infectious disease prevention and control program.
The order requires people to wear face masks at fitness centers, retail shops, restaurants, movie theatres, sporting events, and other shared public spaces. Masks were already required statewide inside schools, health care facilities, daycares, and public transit.
Pritzker also mandated vaccinations for school and college students, higher education staff, and health care workers. Under the new vaccine rule imposed in Illinois, educators who deny to be vaccinated will have to undergo testing at least once a week.
In a statement, the Governor said, “Unfortunately, our current vaccination levels are not sufficient to blunt the ferocity of the delta variant hospitalization surges. We are running out of time as our hospitals run out of beds.” He further emphasized that the healthcare institutions are now close to what he referred to as dangerously low ICU availability.
According to the data reported from January to July, unvaccinated people accounted for 98% of COVID cases, 96% of hospitalizations, and 95% of deaths related to the virus.
During a press conference, Pritzker stated, “This is a pandemic among the unvaccinated.” He further added, “The spread of delta variant in communities with low vaccination rates is causing a major concern for our hospitals.”
Gov. Pritzker hopes that as more and more people get vaccinated, new cases will drop, and so will the number of people in hospitals. He commented, “Remember, these vaccines are doing what they are designed to do, essentially to eliminate the risk of death and hospitalization.”
The Governor from the Democratic party has made his response to the pandemic a theme of his campaign to get re-elected. He has urged all unvaccinated citizens to get vaccinated. His efforts have increased after the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for everyone, including people aged 16 and older.
As it stands, Illinois is the most vaccinated state in the Midwest, with 65% of the population already having taken the vaccine. The new mask mandate will stay in place until the number of hospitalizations goes down.