Pritzker: COVID-19 data continues to move in good direction; mask mandate set to end Monday

Gov. J.B. Pritzker addresses questions about the COVID-19 pandemic on Feb. 22, 2022.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker addresses questions about the COVID-19 pandemic on Feb. 22, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Feb. 22, 2022 at 6:44 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he remains optimistic about the downward trend for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Illinois, but he’s not lifting the statewide indoor mask mandate before Feb. 28.

There are now 1,331 people hospitalized for COVID-19 complications. That is the best report the Illinois Department of Public Health has seen since Aug. 1.

The 7-day rolling positivity rate is 2%, and there were 1,549 new confirmed and probable cases reported Tuesday.

During an unrelated press conference, Pritzker said things are getting much better for Illinois, and Feb. 28 seems like the perfect time to lift the mask mandate.

He stressed local governments are welcome to have their own stricter mitigations to limit the spread of COVID-19. Pritzker said the same applies to businesses.

“Private businesses can do what is best for their businesses, what’s best for their employees and their customers,” Pritzker said. “And we encourage mitigations if they feel like that’s the right thing to do in the space that they’re in or in the kind of business that they’re in.”

The governor also reminded people they should continue to take personal responsibility and follow recommendations from doctors. According to IDPH, 32,431 Illinoisans have died from COVID-related illness.

Pritzker said Illinois has lost far fewer people than other Midwest states who didn’t have mitigations in place.

14,929 COVID-19 vaccines were given over the past 24 hours. 84.4% of Illinoisans 12 and older have received at least one shot. 75.1% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated. The 7-day rolling average for shots given is 18,543.

Meanwhile, IDPH announced Tuesday the state will help distribute more COVID-19 treatment options as therapeutics become more available across the country. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization on Feb. 11 for bebtelovimab, a new monoclonal antibody to use against COVID-19.

“This newest COVID-19 treatment authorized by the FDA will continue to move us forward as we co-exist with COVID-19,” explained IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “While vaccination and boosting are still the best protection against severe illness due to COVID-19, this new treatment, along with other previously authorized treatments, can help keep people out of the hospital.”

Bebtelovimab can be used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 cases in adults and some children at higher risk for severe COVID complications. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of allocating bebtelovimab to states. That monoclonal antibody joins sotrovimab and the oral antivirals Paxlovid and molnupiravir as options for COVID-19 treatment. Evusheld is also a preventive drug people can use if they choose not to get vaccinated.

IDPH officials say they will prioritize equity when distributing the treatment options by analyzing high-impact areas with low vaccination rates and communities ranking high on the Social Vulnerability Index. The department has also hosted webinars for hospitals, pharmacists and local health departments to explain how they can enroll to give the COVID-19 therapeutics to patients.

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