‘Virus Isn’t Taking A Holiday’: Pritzker Gives Holiday Guidance

ILLINOIS —As Illinois topped 9,000 coronavirus deaths and more than 327,000 cases, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday gave guidance that those who are looking forward to holiday celebrations with loved ones might find bleak: It’s not a good idea.

Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike offered guidance to help Illinois residents celebrate safely and precautions to take if you must hold in-person gatherings.

“But I know, we all know, that many people will be getting together with family and friends,” Ezike admitted.

“Just as was true for Easter and Eid and the 4th of July, this virus doesn’t make exceptions for traditions,” Pritzker said. “There is no free pass in this season of giving when it comes to COVID-19. Many people who have erred on the side of caution up to now might face new temptation.”

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But, Pritzker said, “I’ll be blunt: This virus isn’t taking a holiday. It wants to find new hosts.” He noted that even those in their 20s, 30s and 40s have experienced neurological and other complications due to coronavirus, stressing the risk of hosting in-person celebrations.

With Halloween just weeks away and Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year’s fast on its heels, state health officials are urging residents to connect with loved ones outside their households virtually, whether that means via Zoom meetings, FaceTime or Skype.

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The CDC has advised residents to avoid large gatherings and typical Thanksgiving celebrations in favor of:

  • Having a small dinner with only people who live in your household

  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others

  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family

  • Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday

  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home

While officials discouraged in-person holiday gatherings, for those who will travel or get together in spite of the CDC’s guidance, Ezike offered tips for doing so more safely.

Traveling:

  • Consider the mode of transportation. “Traveling by plane, train or bus can mean standing in lines and sitting less than 6 feet from people for long periods of time.”

  • If you’re traveling by car and must stop for gas, food or bathroom breaks, decrease your risk by consistently wearing face coverings during travel and continuing to wash your hands.

If you are hosting a gathering:

  • Host as many activities outdoors as possible.

  • Be reasonable: Consider how many people you can safely host while maintaining distance and safe practices.

  • Ventilation: Open windows as much as possible to increase air circulation.

  • If you or relatives are coming in from out of town, limit your exposures in the two weeks before you travel.“The fewer exposures people have, the lower the likelihood of catching that infection,” Ezike said.

  • Seating arrangements: Keep members of the same household together; separate households as much as possible.

  • Limit the number of people in smaller areas of the home like the kitchen.

  • Consider spreading the gathering into multiple rooms.

  • Serving: If serving buffet style, remind those using shared serving utensils to wash their hands before they eat. Consider serving food already plated.

Holiday shopping or host gift shopping:

  • Shop at off-peak times

  • Order online

  • Arrange for store pickup

“We all want to be around our family and friends during the holidays, please, please understand that you need to stay home,” Ezike said. “Don’t assume that your symptoms are not serious, don’t assume that they are not COVID, don’t assume that you are not contagious. We don’t want to have our holidays marred by tragedy on the back end.”

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The holiday guidance came as Illinois reported 2,862 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus and 49 additional deaths, bringing Illinois’ coronavirus death toll to 9,074.

As of Tuesday night, a total of 1,974 people in Illinois were hospitalized with coronavirus. Of those, 390 patients were in the ICU and 153 patients were on ventilators.

This article originally appeared on the Across Illinois Patch

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