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Despite Threat Of Lawsuits, Pritzker Says 'It Makes No Sense' To Loosen Mitigation Efforts For Bars, Restaurants

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Governor JB Pritzker said while he understands the state's restaurant industry is suffering because of COVID-19 restrictions, he has no plans to let up on mitigation efforts, in place to limit the spread.

Several groups of restaurants plan on suing the governor for the shutdown, but Pritzker said the virus "is unrelenting" and the limitations will be in effect until the infection rates go down.

Pritzker's comments come as Illinois officials reported nearly 7,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the second day in a row the state has set a record for daily cases, as the governor announced indoor dining and bar service will be banned in yet another region of the state.

"It doesn't care about what the location is, and what we're trying to do here is to limit the cases the hospitalizations and the deaths. Every day, we now see these numbers going through the roof. And so the idea that we're going to, you know, make the locations that are amplifying the number of cases and the spread the transmission of this virus that we're going to open those even more at this point makes no sense to me," Pritzker said.

He added that despite the high number of COVID cases, the mitigation efforts will help to stop the spread.

"We have got to get these numbers down. And you know why? So we can reopen the bars and restaurants. So we can reopen our schools," Pritzker said. "I want every kid to be able to go to school in person, every day. And so we have got to bring down these numbers so that we can restore the businesses, restore education. We can get there."

With the record number of COVID cases showing no signs of declining in Illinois, Governor JB Pritzker urged people to make "good decisions" regarding Halloween activities and if people have to celebrate, to do it outdoors.

"In the end, whatever fun you choose please remember this virus does not make exceptions for holidays or because you want to take a break from it," Pritzker said. "With community transmission rates on the rise all around the state, it's more important than ever to take caution mask up. Avoid gatherings and ensure your family gets through this as safe as they can be. Think seriously about whether you need to be going out to celebrate at all."

Doctor Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health echoed the governor's comments and said indoor Halloween parties "are just not likely to be safe" and said while health officials have data on how COVID is spreading, the public has the most valuable tool to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"With the numbers all going in the wrong direction again it's easy to feel discouraged. We all feel discouraged. But you shouldn't feel like there's nothing you can do there is something you can do. Public health officials might be running out of options but you have the most powerful options within your toolbox. And it's the things that we have been saying from here. But we all have to do them. So please let's take hold of our collective power. Let's take action today. Let's wear our masks. Let's watch our distance. Let's wash our hands," said Ezike.

The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed 6,943 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a new high. The previous record was 6,363 new cases reported on Thursday.

The new case record comes as IDPH also reported 95,111 new tests on Friday, also a new high for Illinois. The previous record for tests in a single day was 87,759 on Oct. 16. The statewide seven-day average case positivity rates is up to 7.3%, the first time the state has surpassed 7% since early June, and the highest that rate has been since May 29, when it was 8%.

Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 402,401 cases of COVID-19, including 9,711 deaths. IDPH reported 36 new deaths on Friday.

As of Thursday night, 3,092 virus patients were being treated in Illinois hospitals, including 673 patients in intensive care, and 288 on ventilators. Those numbers are all the highest they've been since early June.

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