CHAMPAIGN — As the number of COVID-19 cases set a new state record Wednesday, Champaign County also reported a big increase in the number of people testing positive for the virus. The 305 new cases actually occurred over a couple of days. And administrator Julie Pryde with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District said there were still more cases to be announced, once they were processed by her staff. Pryde spoke Wednesday with Illinois Newsroom’s Jim Meadows. The interview was edited for broadcast and for online publication.
JM: This is a big spike in cases in terms of total numbers, but you’re saying these are cases that had accumulated over the past couple of days.
Pryde: Yeah, they’re trying to get them entered as fast as possible. You know, in order for us to report them, we are interviewing them first. So we’re contacting people and interviewing them. But we just have so much infection going on in our county right now, just as all around us. We are starting to see what happens when you get pandemic prevention fatigue. And we’ve got to get a handle on this before we go into the holiday seasons.
JM: So people need to be just more aware of the need to take precautions.
Pryde: They really needs to stay home, if they don’t need to be out, you know, running around. This is not the time to be meeting with friends and doing anything. It’s not a time to have dinner parties with friends. It’s just not a time to be around others outside of your household.
JM: And that’s a difficult message to convey when Thanksgiving is coming.
Pryde: It’s a very difficult message to convey. And I don’t know how much more blunt I can be about this. But we will see an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, due to gathering at Thanksgiving. And there’s nothing we can do about that, as far as individuals bringing people into their home or going into other people’s homes. But we absolutely know we’re going to see it. And when that happens, they’re going to know as well. And that’s going to be tragic, and it’s going to be devastating to people.
JM: So it sounds like the only thing that you can put your hope on right now, is that despite the pandemic fatigue that you mentioned, the people are more mindful of taking these precautions and become convinced that they need to take them.
Pryde: Absolutely. We are at a point where people need to assess their own situation. And we just have to get people to understand and do it, because there’s going to be tragedy after tragedy after tragedy, if we don’t and, you know, we still have places, bars and things out in the county that are still open. We have some in Champaign-Urbana that are popping up and doing things. We still have frats who are trying to hold parties and things like that. The bigger things are the easier ones to address. But anything could be open. If people don’t go to it, then there’s not going to be transmission.
JM: One thing I was wondering is, is there any enforcement of the mitigation directives in Champaign County? How is that done?
Pryde: We have several options available to us. It is everything from Public Health doing the enforcement along with sheriff, police, state’s attorney. The mayors in different places have access to rescinding liquor licenses for places that aren’t doing it. This is something though, that really is going to require individual behavior. Just because something is open doesn’t mean you need to go there. The other issue, of course, is that we’re down now to the really hard part of this. It’s not just a matter of staying out of a bar that’s illegally open at the time. Or it’s not a matter of you know, not having a big party or going to a big wedding or something like that. We are down now to people needing to understand that even meeting with close friends or family members that they have been meeting with all along, this is not safe at this time unless they’re doing it in the way that they have to do it with anyone else, a stranger. That is distance and masks. And it’s got to be both.