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State’s top doctor says herd immunity death toll would be ‘unfathomable’

By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The state’s top doctor said Friday that less than 10 percent of the state’s population has been exposed to COVID-19, making solutions such as herd immunity untenable given the number of deaths already tied to the pandemic.

As Illinois surpassed over 10,000 COVID-19 cases in a single day, the question has been raised on whether herd immunity is an option during the pandemic.

Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a virus, making the spread of the virus from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected, not just those who are immune.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said she has heard of numbers between 60% and 80% to achieve herd immunity. She said between 5 to 10 percent of Illinoisans have contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic, and over 10,000 have died, making herd immunity a dangerous proposition.

“The thought of how many people would need to get the infection and die to get to that 60, 70, 80% is unfathomable,” Ezike said.

During his daily briefing Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said statewide stay-at-home orders are not in his immediate plans, but it could be an option in the near future.

“I can’t guarantee you what it looks like in two weeks from now or three weeks from now, I just don’t know,” Pritzker said. “None of us frankly expected that the entire country would be swept with an increase in COVID-19.”

The governor continued to press his case for the closure of bars and restaurants, presenting contact tracing data which he says points to indoor dining settings as the highest source of risk for contracting the coronavirus. Schools and workplaces were shown to be the second and third highest risk settings.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5 is 9.6%. Seventy-five Illinois counties are currently reported at a warning level.

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