Gov. JB Pritzker said he doesn’t intend to enact a mandatory quarantine for out-of-state visitors to Illinois from COVID-19 hot spots like Florida or Texas.
His comments come as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, announced they were enacting such a quarantine for visitors.
“They’ve had so many people die, so many people hospitalized. I mean, really tragic, tragic situation,” Pritzker told reporters while stopping in western Illinois Wednesday.
“I can understand why they might feel a need when they see other places on the rise and they’re actually doing a good job of keeping the rates down that they might look at every possible way in which to diminish or keep down the number of cases that are in their state,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker left the door open to enacting a mandatory quarantine for visitors down the road.
After months of requiring residents to stay in their home and shutting down nonessential businesses, Illinois’ hospitalizations and percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 have now been consistently declining for the past five weeks — just as several southern and western states are seeing a sharp spike in hospitalizations. The Houston area, for example, has 97% of its intensive care hospital beds in use.
Illinois saw 64 deaths in the past 24 hours related to COVID-19. And 715 people tested positive for the coronavirus out of 29,331 tests, for a positivity rate just above 2%.
Pritzker attributed part of Illinois’ lower case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths to the widespread use of facial coverings and having stores require customers wear them.
“Here’s what we’re seeing,” Pritzker said. “In states where they didn’t encourage [facial coverings], where nobody really made it a rule anywhere, that’s where we’re seeing a significant increase in cases and hospitalizations right now, even during these summer months.”
Yet despite Illinois’ advances in the number of tests it’s completing, the federal government is now planning to shutter 13 testing locations around the country, including some in Illinois.
Pritzker said he intends to keep those locations open and staffed with local personnel.
“As much help as we can get from the federal government, we will ask for and take. But in this case, because they’ve decided this across so many states, what we want to make sure is that testing is widely available and free to people across our state,” Pritzker said.
The federal government’s closures come after President Donald Trump said that he asked his administration to slow down testing, which he blamed for the U.S.’s high rate of COVID-19 infections.
“By having more tests, we find more cases,” Trump also said.
In response to Trump’s earlier comments, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois’ public health director, advised the public yesterday: “Forget what you’ve heard. Increased testing is a good thing.”
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.