Pritzker says contract tracing key to keeping people safe during COVID-19 pandemic

(The Center Square) – More people are being tested for COVID-19 than ever before and as a result, a record number of people have tested positive.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Friday reported 3,137 new cases, including 105 additional deaths, with only 8 of those occurring downstate. As of Friday, Ezike said there have been a total of 56,055 cases of the coronavirus, including 2,457 COVID-19-related deaths in 97 of the state’s 102 counties.

Governor J.B. Pritzker said Friday that contact tracing is an important piece of the puzzle for reopening the state. During his daily COVID-19 briefing, the governor said the practice will help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in late 2019.

“In the context of a very infectious virus, this is our primary tool for identifying potential asymptomatic spreaders, so they can self isolate quickly and slow the spread of the virus to their contacts,” Pritzker said. “We will let people know before symptoms start that they could become ill.”

The governor’s stay-at-home order extension went into effect Friday. The modified order requires people to wear a face-covering when going out in public when social distancing isn’t possible. Pritzker was asked about enforcement of that provision.

“We’ve left that up to localities, municipalities, and counties to make those decisions on how they will enforce,” he said.

Pritzker also said Friday that some areas of the state could open sooner than others, the clearest indication yet that the governor will take a regional rather than statewide approach to reopening the economy.

The governor said some regions could open up before the governor’s most recent stay-at-home order expires on May 30.

“Yes, if it’s heading down the other side of this slide – that even the national plan proposed – if it’s 14 days on a downslide of those numbers, then absolutely,” Pritzker said Friday at a news conference in Chicago. “Listen, I want as much as everybody else does for everybody to get back to work and for us to move toward normalcy, but I also want to say that I’m not going to do it until we know people are safe and it isn’t going to be because some protester has a sign that says, you know, ‘Liberate Illinois."”

The governor’s comments came as hundreds of protesters gathered in both Chicago and Springfield to call for the end of the statewide lockdown, which has been in place since March 21.

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