CARBONDALE (IRN) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday visited another COVID-19 hot spot in Illinois and said the spread of the coronavirus was worse in Southern Illinois than in Chicago.
The governor spoke at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, an area that has seen a spike in coronavirus cases. Jackson County is one of 11 counties in Illinois that are at a warning level for the spread of COVID-19. Jackson County has a positivity rate of 8.8 percent.
“I’m here today because the COVID-19 pandemic, which once seemed tame in Carbondale and throughout the entire region, is surging here,” Pritzker said. “It’s worse than in Chicago. And I’ll be frank, if we don’t see some change here, the virus will cause some businesses to close and an increasing percentage of people to get sick and some will even die.”
The governor said returning SIU students contributed to the rise in cases in the area.
“Among the traced origins of Jackson County’s outbreaks are parties held by SIU students coming back early for athletics and orientation activities,” Pritzker said.
On Monday, Pritzker announced a $5 million campaign to encourage Illinoisans to wear masks while out in public, something he said is a must on Illinois college campuses this fall. On Tuesday, the governor again said the decisions about college and school reopening plans were up to local leaders and elected school boards.
“It is up to local universities and local schools to make decisions about how to operate in this environment,” he said. “There is not a single one of these institutions that should be opening without making sure that you are enforcing a mask mandate.”
The other counties at the state’s warning level include Cass, Sangamon, Gallatin, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph. Saline, St. Clair and White.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said the counties each had outbreaks associated with business operations and activities with higher risks for spreading the coronavirus, including school graduation ceremonies, parties and social gatherings.
The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 1,471 new COVID-19 cases, including 19 additional deaths. That brings the statewide total to 184,712 cases, including 7,545 deaths.
In the past 24 hours, laboratories reported 42,598 specimens for a total of 2,849,395 tests statewide since the start of the pandemic. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from July 28 to Aug. 3 is 3.9%.
As of Monday night, 1,496 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 365 patients were in the ICU and 125 patients were on ventilators, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health