WLS-TVBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News
(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- In an emotional briefing, Illinois' top health official teared up while she delivered the latest COVID-19 numbers for the state and urged residents not to get complacent in fighting the virus.
"I want to say happy Friday, but I understand the mental, the social and the emotional toll that this pandemic continues to have on people," Illinois Department of Public Health Department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike began Friday's COVID-19 briefing.
While acknowledging the sacrifices she has asked people to make, Ezike noted that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase in the state.
"Yesterday we lost an additional 31 lives, for a total of 9,418 deaths," she said. "These are people who started with us in 2020 and won't be with us at the Thanksgiving table."
Her voice wavering, she reported there were 3,874 new cases on Thursday, for a total of 364,033 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
The official then paused and stepped away from the podium to gather herself, before reporting that there were 2,498 people hospitalized overnight with COVID-19, including 511 in the intensive care unit and 197 on ventilators. Hospitalizations reached a record on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
"My message to you is to stay strong," Ezike said. "I've never run a marathon, but I have the utmost regard for those who've been able to train and plan and finish a marathon. But this is a difficult race when you can't actually see the endpoint and I'm sorry that that's the message I have for you."
She pleaded with residents to "fight the fatigue" and continue to social distance, diligently wear a mask and reconsider large, in-person gatherings.
"This is what we'll have to do to bring the spread down in our community," Ezike said. "When we bring the spread down in our community, kids can go to school safely, people can go to work safely, activities, [and] family celebrations can be celebrations, instead of super-spreader events that result in disease and death."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.