Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a warning Monday to Illinois residents traveling to other states, specifically Iowa and Missouri, as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“If you cross the border to Iowa or Missouri, remember that they have three and four times our positivity rate,” Pritzker said during a news conference on the pandemic response alongside local elected officials in Adams County, which borders Missouri and sits just south of the state’s border with Iowa.
“So even if you see someone there not wearing a mask, don’t think you’re safe,” Pritzker continued. “Wear your mask. In fact, encourage them to wear theirs.”
Illinois has seen “relative success in the handling of this pandemic,” Pritzker said Monday, adding that the state has maintained a positivity rate “around half of our nearest neighbors, or a third or a fourth in some cases, including Missouri.”
Illinois reported 1,231 new coronavirus cases and 18 additional deaths on Monday, as the statewide positivity rate – calculated as a seven-day rolling average to show overall trends – continued its gradual rise to now 3.8%.
Missouri’s positivity rate over the past seven days stands at 8.8%, per the Missouri Department of Health’s website. Iowa health officials reported a one-day positivity rate of 7.2% on Sunday, with an overall positivity rate of 9.3% since the pandemic began.
“It doesn’t take long at all to reverse all of our gains and for a trajectory of success to turn on its head. You’ve seen this in other states,” Pritzker said Monday. “Similarly, success in a state as big and diverse as ours doesn’t mean that things look the same across our 58,000 square miles.”
Pritzker appeared in Adams County in part to caution residents that it was one of four counties out of the state’s 102 that were placed on a “warning level” by the Illinois Department of Public Health due to “an increasing level of community spread.”
“New cases on a per capita basis are going up and so are emergency room visits,” Pritzker said Monday.
“What’s happening here in Adams County is alarming and if these trends continue in the negative direction, the state will need to take immediate action to impose additional mitigations to slow the spread and keep more people from getting sick,” Pritzker added, repeating a warning he’s issued several times before that officials “won’t hesitate” to impose stricter restrictions on areas seeing coronavirus metrics increase.
Despite his warning Monday, Pritzker said last week that Illinois won’t require residents who travel to and from neighboring states to quarantine for two weeks solely because of that travel, like the city of Chicago does.
“We don’t live in a country where you close the borders between states,” Pritzker said during his coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. “And we’re not going to stop people who live in Illinois and work in Wisconsin from doing so.”
The city of Chicago issued an emergency travel order earlier this month requiring those entering Illinois from more than a dozen states to quarantine for 14 days. That order is reassessed and updated every Tuesday, with states added or removed based on their metrics.
Wisconsin’s increase in coronavirus cases puts it “very close” to being included on the quarantine list, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said last week.
Pritzker acknowledged on Wednesday that every state bordering Illinois has either “doubled or tripled our positivity rate.” He also noted Illinois’ downstate Metro East health region, which borders St. Louis, Missouri, is “dangerously close” to seeing more restrictions put in place because of a high positivity rate.
But when asked if he would consider a statewide travel order that requires two weeks of quarantining, Pritzker said “this is challenging for us.”
“You can’t ask somebody who crosses the border every day to go to work, who’s following all the mitigations that we’ve asked — you know, wear a mask, wash your hands, all the things we’ve asked them to do,” Pritzker said. “They’re not gathering in large groups, but they go to work every day. You can’t ask them to quarantine for 14 days at a time. So that’s not something that we really can do.”
Pritzker said Illinois has a lot of border counties where people cross back and forth because they have family or work on the other side.
While a statewide travel order is likely not in Illinois’ future, Pritzker reminded residents to do one main thing in its place.
“What we need is for Illinoisans to do — frankly, what most people have been doing, but we just need everybody to pay close, close attention to — is this,” he said. “If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re doing it wrong. You have to wear a mask.”