Illinois' Top Doctor Urges Residents to Enjoy Holiday Celebrations Safely as COVID Cases Rise

As coronavirus cases increase in Illinois, the state’s top doctor says that it is not a time to panic, but a time to double-down on prevention efforts to keep the virus from spreading during the holiday season. During an interview with NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern on Wednesday, Ezike encouraged individuals to try their best to enjoy the holiday season, while at the same time taking common sense safety measures at family gatherings. “(Just do) the same things that we want to do to keep ourselves safe,” she said. “I don’t want to underestimate it. We are in dire straits, but I don’t want people to be panicked. I just want them to do what we need to do, and that’s to get vaccinated, wear masks, do testing and wash our hands. “The message has not changed for the two years we’ve been at this,” she added. Ezike’s message comes as Illinois health officials deal with a surge in cases that rivals what the state saw a year ago. The state reported nearly 17,000 new cases of COVID on Wednesday alone, the highest number reported this year, and Illinois also crossed two million total cases of the virus since the pandemic began. Even still, with the COVID vaccine and booster shots showing promise in fighting off the omicron variant of the disease, Ezike says that the strategies that have worked in keeping the virus at bay are the ones that residents should keep employing. “We actually know the things that work,” she said. “We know that vaccines are our best intervention, and we know that masks will slow down transmission, and we know that we have to test to figure out if we’re acutely infected so that we can stand down and not spread it.” Ezike also applauded efforts by local health departments to curb COVID cases, including Chicago’s new rule requiring proof of vaccination to attend indoor events and to dine at indoor establishments in the new year. “We have always encouraged local health departments to go beyond what we’re doing,” she said. “Our mitigation right now is to have the indoor mask mandate that’s still in effect, and if other local health departments in their jurisdictions want to step up, we welcome it.” With millions of Illinois residents planning to gather for the holidays, Ezike says that there is a way to both enjoy that family time, and to stay safe while doing so. “Absolutely enjoy it. Enjoy your family,” she said.

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