Illinois health official warns: Don’t go to grandma’s house for Christmas

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike encouraged Illinois residents to celebrate Christmas virtually and avoid visiting with family members not in the immediate household.

“If we’ve made it this far with the finish line starting to get into sight. You deserve for you, your family, and your friends to make it to the other side,” she said.

“A negative test isn’t a free pass to visit family,” Ezike said, noting that by the time a person receives a negative test, they may have come in contact with the virus.

“If we don’t normally see our moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, or nieces on a daily basis, then it’s best not to mix those households for the upcoming holidays,” she said.

Ezike said, “It’s important to understand that people at higher risk are still at risk even at small gatherings,” and suggested holding celebrations outdoors, or at the minimum, indoors with open doors and windows to increase ventilation.

“Even if you think you are healthy and feel well, you could still be spreading the virus,” she said. “Please: let’s give the life. Let’s give the gift of health this holiday season. Again, we’ve come too far to give it up now.”

At Wednesday’s daily briefing, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker touted the state’s success with rapid COVID-19 antigen testing, saying the state has been a leader in the distribution of over 15,000 COVID-19 antigen tests manufactured by Abbott laboratories. The test, developed at the University of Illinois, detects the presence of COVID-19 in saliva and returns quick results.

U of I had received emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to run a saliva-based test created at the University of Urbana-Champaign lab.

Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockerfeller Foundation, helped Illinois develop it’s testing structure, said, “Testing is the one thing helping us avoid complete shutdown,” and paid tribute to Illinois for joining the foundation’s State’s Alliance for Testing.

Pritzker, a Democrat, said Illinois developed its own testing strategy “because of the lack of federal leadership” under Republican President Donald Trump, and said he hopes that the incoming administration, led by fellow Democrat Joe Biden, will develop a comprehensive national testing plan.

Pritzker said testing is important, because quick results can be used to help stop spread of the virus in a community.

The governor said demand for testing slowed down over the Thanksgiving weekend, but was picking back up, with an average of 96,000 tests per day.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 8,256 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 179 additional deaths. 

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 812,430 cases, including 13,666 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 92,737 specimens for a total 11,367,345.  As of last night, 5,284 in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19.  Of those, 1,176 patients were in the ICU and 647 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators. 
The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from December 2 – December 8, 2020 is 9.6%.  The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from December 2 – December 8, 2020 is 11.4%.


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