JB Pritzker

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at the Rock Island Health Department on Monday.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker spoke at the Rock Island County Health Department on Monday, stressing the importance of people wearing masks while in public, especially when Illinoisans travel into Iowa.

Just last week, the county reported roughly 100 new cases of COVID-19. Additionally, its region has a 4.1 percent positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average, and four straight days of positivity increases.

Health officials in the Quad-Cities said they are noticing the rise in COVID-19 cases is among people who are 40 and younger. Pritzker reiterated that wearing a mask in Illinois is not optional and could help mitigate the virus while saving lives at the same time.

“Wearing a mask is like wearing a seat belt,” Pritzker said. “It’s required, and it saves lives. If you cross the border to Iowa or Missouri, remember they have three and four times our positivity rate. Even if you see someone there that’s not wearing a mask, don’t think you’re safe. Wear your mask.”

Pritzker said overall, the state’s response to the pandemic has been really good but he said he is concerned that certain parts of Illinois are starting to see a rise in cases. He called on Illinoisans to do the right thing and protect the progress the state has made so far. Pritzker said the steady increase in the positivity rate along the Illinois/Iowa borderline is problematic.

“What I would say here is, things are not moving in the right direction,” Pritzker said. “We have to make sure that people get the message. That wearing a mask, let me just say it over and over again if I have to, and if I sound like a broken record it’s because you’re 80 percent less likely to get COVID-19 if you wear a mask.”

Toward the end of his press conference, Pritzker took questions from reporters and addressed a variety of topics, most notably, kids returning the school. Pritzker said the state gave guidance and recommendations on how school districts can go about returning safely. At the same time, he said it is up to communities, parents, and districts to formulate a plan that best meets their needs based on the virus’s impact in that area. When it comes to fall sports, such as high school football, Pritzker did not provide a clear-cut answer as to if there will be a season.

“Look, I can’t tell you what the odds are. I can’t tell you what is going to happen on Aug. 10 or any date in August yet,” Pritzker said. “What I can tell you is we issued guidance for what we know right now. But we’re all going to have to keep watching.”

Pritzker said he has set metrics so people can see the progression or regression certain regions in the state are experiencing as they relate to the pandemic.

Locally, Clinton County currently has reported 240 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the outbreak in March, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health website. In Whiteside County, Illinois, local health officials are currently reporting 11 new cases, with a total of 294 positive cases reported since the pandemic began.