Former Illinois health official reflects as COVID wanes: 'Let's look forward'

Ngozi Ezike at podium
Ngozi Ezike Photo credit Justin L. Fowler/ USA Today Images

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The World Health Organization has declared an end to the global health emergency for COVID-19, and the doctor who led the state of Illinois through the worst of times says she is happy to put the crisis in the past.

For seven months, Illinois' public health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike had been reporting thousands of coronavirus cases and deaths. In October 2020, she broke down in tears.

"It's not that that day was challenging and the other days were not,” she tells WBBM Newsradio today. “It's such a challenging journey for all of us. And so, in that sense, I'm really happy to have a day to say, 'OK, that part of it -- that acute emergency -- is over.'

"Let's look forward and really think about what we can learn from what we've been through."

Namely, she says, that vaccines save lives. Ezike believes we are better prepared for the next pandemic.

"I think there are policies and procedures in many areas of life that could be dusted off and brought back."

But she knows that for some people, public health became a scapegoat, with some in society balking at rules about masks, at capacity limits, at shutdowns.

"It's dangerous for public health to take a hit.  And if they keep getting hit, we will all lose."

Dr. Ezike has been president and CEO of Sinai Chicago for the past 10 months.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Justin L. Fowler/ USA Today Images