(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that new, more stringent restrictions could be coming statewide in Illinois if COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
Pritzker made the announcement during his daily news briefing on Thursday.
“If the numbers keep going in the wrong direction, we will need to impose further mitigations,” Pritzker said. “I think we all remember what Phase 3 looked like, or Phase 2 looked like. Those are all things that are under consideration.”
In Phase 2, Illinoisans were under a stay-at-home order with all businesses deemed non-essential by Pritzker closed.
The governor’s threat comes as an additional 76,338 Illinois workers filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That represents more than 10 percent of the 751,000 new claims filed in the week ending Oct. 31 for the entire country.
The high number of new claims is in part because the governor has already prohibited indoor service at bars and restaurants in all regions of the state, though some business owners are staying open in an effort to stay afloat and some local leaders have said they won’t intervene.
Pritzker said he was aware of the nonenforcement and put the blame on local leaders.
“They know if there was enforcement – if there were actual consequences for their actions at the local level,” Pritzker said. “They are supposed to enforce state laws, and when they don’t enforce them, people die.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported in the last week that the state has seen its case positivity rate climb from 6.9 percent to 9.1 percent. The number of hospitalizations in the state has more than doubled in less than five weeks.
“If Illinoisans don’t change their behavior we are going to experience a surge in hospitalizations much great than we are seeing now,” Pritzker said.
The governor also said that Illinois has passed a grim milestone. After the largest single-day increase in deaths since early June, Illinois surpassed more than 10,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The state also shattered the single-day record for new cases of COVID-19 with 9,935.
The previous high was 7,899 reported less than a week ago on Oct. 31. That brings the 7-day average of cases in the state to more than 7,400.