Illinois debuts pro-mask campaign as 11 counties remain at coronavirus ‘warning level’

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (State of Illinois video screenshot)

By Mike Ewing, Tahman Bradley, WGN

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said 11 counties remain at the state’s “warning” level of coronavirus infections Monday, as the state rolls out a new campaign to encourage residents to wear masks and follow other health guidelines.

Pritzker unveiled the new $5 million awareness campaign based on a simple slogan: “it only works if you wear it. The campaign will  blanket the airways with the messages on broadcast TV, radio, internet, and social media, focusing on cities and counties where COVID-19 cases are rising.

“Always wear a mask when you’re out in public to protect yourself and others. Keeping it in your pocket or wearing it around your neck, doesn’t work. It’s really that simple,” Prtizker said.

Health officials reported 1,298 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed in Illinois over the past day Monday.

Pritzker said the state is rolling out the new campaign as 11 counties in Illinois remain at the state’s “warning” level of coronavirus infections.

Health officials identified Cass, Gallatin, Jackson, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Perry, Randolph, Saline, Sangamon, St. Clair, and White counties as being at the “warning” level on Friday, based on an increase in test positivity rates, deaths, hospitalizations, and other indicators.

He said the state is seeing outbreaks in businesses, school graduation parties, bars and long-term care facilities, as well as a rise in cases among people in their late teens and early 20s.

“This virus isn’t going away on its own so we have to take responsibility, we have to take individual and collective action to protect the people we love,” Pritzker said.

The governor also opened the door to fines for people refusing to wear a mask Monday.

“Ultimately, if they’re absolutely refusing in public they’re putting other people at risk so it’s worthy of considering a fine at a local level,” Pritzker said.

Despite his executive order requiring people over the age of 2 who are able to wear face coverings, the governor acknowledges it’s difficult for business owners to enforce mask rules without changing state law.

“We’ve made so much progress since the beginning of this pandemic; let’s protect that progress,” Pritzker said.

The campaign will reach out to residents in English and Spanish. The Pritzker administration says costs are reimbursable by the federal government.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 183,241 cases of COVID-19 and 7,526 related deaths have been confirmed to date, while 95 percent of confirmed cases are believed to have recovered. The statewide positivity rate from July 27-August 2 ticked up slightly to 4 percent.

The average number of tests performed each day over a seven-day period has remained relatively stable since July 18, at about 38,000 coronavirus tests performed a day. Over that period, the statewide positivity rate has risen from 2.9 to 4 percent.

Hospitalizations statewide remain within the limits established in the “Restore Illinois” plan. As of Sunday, 1,418 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 347 in intensive care and 132 on ventilators.

Six of the 11 regions in Illinois established by the plan are at the “warning” level with an increase in test positivity rates reported over at least seven of the past 10 days. However, hospitalizations in those regions have not significantly increased over the same period.

A positivity rate of 7.4 percent in the Southern region and 7.3 percent in the Metro East region outside St. Louis as of July 31 remain near the 8 percent level where state mitigation measures would be put in place.

Illinois COVID-19 Statistics

This article originally appeared on WGN.

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