Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker calls crowded wedding “very irresponsible” amid spike in COVID-19 deaths

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker criticized the hosts of a large wedding in the Chicago area as the state saw a near-record number of COVID-19 related deaths reported Thursday.

State officials said 238 deaths were reported on Wednesday, although figures reported each day could include deaths that happened in earlier days but were not immediately reported to the state. Another 192 deaths were reported Thursday, CBS Chicago reports.

The elevated figures come a day after a wedding in Northbrook, Illinois, where hundreds of people gathered without masks, according to a CBS Chicago report. 

“I’m deeply concerned for the people who attended that wedding, I understand that people were in very close proximity from one another, I understand that those people will go home or back into their communities and may have infected other people, and that is very concerning to all of us,” said Pritzker.  He urged each guest to isolate and get a test.

Pritzker said Cook County, which is where the hotel is located, is taking the lead on enforcement. 

Illinois moved to Tier 3 safety measures on November 20, which includes a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants; the closing of theaters, casinos and museums; a cap of 10 attendees at funerals; and the closure of hotel meeting and event spaces, among other measures.

Pritzker called the decision to go forward with the wedding after the introduction of more stringent safety guidelines “very irresponsible, and it’s also irresponsible of the hotel to host an event like that. They too have breached the rules and they, too, should be held responsible.”

According to a CBS Chicago report, a statement released by Hilton Chicago/Northbrook General Manager Holly Allgauer-Cir said that while the 150-person wedding was booked prior to the state’s latest, more stringent safety measures, “we sincerely regret allowing this gathering to proceed and our family apologizes to our guests, employees, and the Chicagoland community.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported a total of 12,830 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began. The state also reported 10,959 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total to 759,562 cases since the start of the pandemic.

While deaths from the virus have continued to trend upward since early October, when a new surge of the pandemic started in Illinois, new cases started trending downward over the past few weeks. However, they remain far higher than they were at the start of October, CBS Chicago reports.

Illinois is averaging 9,870 new cases per day over the past two weeks, compared to 11,914 per day over the previous two weeks. That’s still more than four times the average of 2,452 cases per day during the first two weeks of October.

As of Wednesday night, 5,653 virus patients were hospitalized in Illinois, including 1,170 patients in intensive care, and 693 patients on ventilators.

While hospitalizations seem to have started trending downward since peaking at 6,175 on November 20, there are still far more COVID-19 patients in the hospital at the start of December than at the start of October.

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