Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday he has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus since a staffer became ill this week and forced the governor and others into quarantine.
Pritzker said his office staff was tested Monday afternoon and got a clean bill of health. Still, it will not be business as usual for the next two weeks.
"There are a few other close contacts of this staffer, and each of us will be in quarantine until October 12," Pritzker said during a virtual news conference Wednesday. "That’s the 14-day period that’s recommended by public health officials as a precautionary measure."
Pritzker announced Tuesday that a member of his staff began experiencing symptoms of the virus and was tested Monday. The test came back positive.
The staffer, who was not identified, accompanied Pritzker to events in Chicago last Wednesday, Marion on Thursday and Marseilles on Sunday. Both the governor and the staffer wore masks at those events, the office said.
However, the staffer later experienced symptoms and was tested again Monday. That time, the results were positive.
"I spoke with the staffer who tested positive, and they have some symptoms, but are in good condition and resting at home," Pritzker said.
Pritzker used the situation to remind people that widespread testing is available in the state and that people don’t need insurance or to be showing symptoms to take advantage of most of it. Testing sites can be found at the Illinois Department of Public Health website at http://dph.illinois.gov/testing.
On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 2,273 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 293,274. There were 35 additional deaths, bringing that total to 8,672.
The statewide positivity rate is 3.6%.
Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said that the east central region of the state – which includes Champaign-Urbana – could be facing mitigation efforts. She said that the large number of tests administered at the University of Illinois for faculty and staff appear to be skewing results for the entire region and making it appear that the virus is under control.
Ezike said that if data for Champaign County is excluded, the positivity rate for the region is an alarming 7.2%. Mitigation efforts are triggered when the rate stays above 8% for three consecutive days.
Ezike said that if mitigation efforts are needed, they will apply to Champaign County as well as the rest of the region.
Pritzker said the positivity rates in nine of the state’s 11 regions have declined in the last two weeks. An exception is the north region, which includes Winnebago County and Rockford. Mitigation efforts in that region go into effect Saturday and include a ban on indoor dining and bar service and limits on crowd sizes.
Mitigation efforts remain in effect in the Metro East area.
The Department of Public Health also posted its recommendations for Halloween activities on its website. They can be found at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/halloween-guidance.
Public health experts are recommending that people alter their usual Halloween activities this year. Haunted houses are taboo because they tend to have many people in a small space. However, outdoor activities such as hayrides are acceptable in certain circumstances. It is also recommended that adults not attend Halloween parties.
Ezike said people should understand that a Halloween mask is not a substitute for a face mask needed to protect against the coronavirus. Both should be worn, she said. Also, it might be better to set out individual pieces of candy on a table that trick-or-treaters can then retrieve.
"We are encouraging people to find ways to celebrate that might look a little different from years past but which still allow our children to take part in our festivities," she said.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr