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Illinois officials call for 'virtual' Thanksgiving gatherings as COVID-19 spread increases

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020  |  Article  |  By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

Health (49)

(The Center Square) – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Illinois, state health officials are asking people to change their Thanksgiving plans, recommending virtual gatherings rather than in-person meals with extended family and friends.

During a COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said if your Thanksgiving plans include someone over the age of 60, someone with underlying health conditions, or someone who is pregnant, it is not too late to change your plans and hold a virtual Thanksgiving.

“You really have to consider doing it that way,” Ezike said. “Let's not gamble with a virus that has already stolen from us, robbed us of nearly 11 million people in just eight months.”

Worldwide, officials have reported more than 54 million cases of COVID-19, including more than 1.3 million deaths. In the U.S., officials had confirmed 11.1 million cases of COVID-19 as of Monday afternoon since the pandemic started, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker asked Illinoisans to avoid groups and traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday. When asked if he would abide by Chicago's travel rules, the governor said he wasn't sure about the policies.

"I don't know what that says exactly and I don't know exactly what my plans will be," Pritzker said. 

Pritzker also was vague about if planned to stay in Illinois for Thanksgiving.

"That is my hope, but I will let you know," the governor said.

Pritzker owns a home in Florida, among other places. 

The drugmaker Moderna announced Monday that its coronavirus vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, joining Pfizer as a front-runner in the global race to contain the pandemic. Pritzker said he believes a vaccine will be available to Illinoisans within six months.

“Between the two announcements, and the countless incredible public and private sector researchers who fueled it, we have real hope for possible widespread distribution by early spring,” Pritzker said.

On Monday, IDPH reported 11,632 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Illinois and 37 additional deaths. The department has reported a total of 585,248 cases since the outset of the pandemic, including 10,779 deaths. As of Sunday night, more than 5,500 people were in the hospital with COVID-19.