ILLINOIS — Gov. J.B. Pritzker says when he heard the World Health Organization say the spread of COVID-19 by infected people who don’t show symptoms is “very rare,” he asked his experts what that meant for Illinois.
During a COVID-19 briefing Monday, World Health Organization Epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said there is a lot of importance in working to trace asymptomatic spread.
“But from the data, we have it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual,” Kerkhove said.
Pritzker has said he relies on science and data for his policies restricting gatherings and business operations around the state, including requiring face coverings. Asked about the comments on Tuesday, Pritzker said WHO “retracted that.”
“I sent that immediately to Dr. [Ngozi] Ezike when I saw it and said ‘what is the implication of this for us and what policy recommendations would you have from a public health perspective,’” Pritzker said. “Of course all of that’s been rolled back in the last 24 hours.”
Kerkhove on Tuesday didn’t dispute the data and said her statements were not meant to be a policy change announcement.
“I was responding to a question at the press conference,” Kerkhove said. “I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. I was just trying to articulate what we know.”
On Monday, Kerkhove said several times that the data asymptomatic transmission studied in several reports was “very rare.”
“We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question,” Kerkhove said Monday. “It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.”
Regardless, Pritzker, who has required masks saying it is meant to keep asymptomatic people from spreading the disease, said he’s tracking the latest developments.
“But I am watching, as you are, as I think everybody is, what the best science is out there and trying to follow it,” the governor said.
Pritzker’s existing order limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people, but the governor has taken part in recent demonstrations standing shoulder to shoulder with scores of people.
As of yet, there are no face-covering requirements in Phase 4 of the governor’s plan set to kick in on June 26.
The Center Square – Greg Bishop