Illinois health director fights back tears during COVID death totals, urges people to battle ‘pandemic fatigue’

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — The top public health official in Illinois became emotional during a Friday news conference to announce the state’s new cases and deaths from COVID-19.

“I do want to say happy Friday, but I understand the mental, the social and the emotional toll that this pandemic continues to have on people,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “I’m feeling it and living it myself … I understand how pandemic fatigue is striking everyone, it’s real.”

She acknowledged how difficult it is to work from home while trying to care for children, to not be able to see loved ones and to refrain from gathering friends – all sacrifices that “don’t have an expiration date.”

“Although people want to refute the number of cases, we are seeing the number of people with COVID-19 increase, we are seeing the number of individuals in the hospital because of COVID-19 increase, we are seeing the number of lives lost increase,” Ezike said.

She announced that an additional 31 people died in the previous 24 hours, bringing the state’s death toll to 9,814.

“These are people who started with us in 2020 and won’t be with us at the Thanksgiving table,” she said, pausing as the words sunk in, the emotion visible on her face.

Moments later, Ezike had to step away from the podium to compose herself before resuming the briefing.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said the state’s infection rate is up 17% over a week ago, and said again that residents should follow the guidelines to bring the testing positivity rates down.

Pritzker warned that behavior to mitigate the spread of the virus now will affect how many people are hospitalized 8 days from now, on Halloween.

“I’m asking you to fight the fatigue,” Dr. Ezike said. “Fight the urge to give up on social distancing. Fight for your kids to have safe, healthy … in-person learning in school with teachers who are trained to teach them in the classroom. Fight to have safe, healthy environments at which we can work so that businesses can remain open.”

Ezike said wearing masks around others, even inside one’s own home; avoiding large social gatherings; and using virtual methods to connect with loved ones are all crucial for slowing the spread.

Currently, the Illinois Department of Public Health is reporting a total of 364,033 cases, including 9,418 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois.

The age of cases ranges from younger than 1 to older than 100 years. As of Thursday night, 2,498 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 511 patients were in the ICU and 197 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

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