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Pritzker to extend stay-at-home order with modifications starting May 1

Pritzker to extend stay-at-home order with modifications starting May 1

1,826 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, 123 fatalities

By REBECCA ANZEL
Capitol News Illinois
ranzel@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker said Thursday that Illinois’ novel coronavirus data necessitated an extension of his stay-at-home order through the end of May.

The current executive order will expire May 1, at which time an order with “some modifications” will take effect.

Masks will be mandatory for all residents above the age of 2, who can “medically tolerate a face covering,” when in a public place, the governor said.

State parks will begin to open, although social distancing measures must be obeyed in them.

Retail stores not currently deemed “essential businesses” will be allowed to take customer orders online or over the phone and can fulfill them by delivery or pick-up.

New social distancing guidance is planned for essential businesses as well, which also in May must adhere to a new cap on customers allowed inside at one time.

Illinoisans forced to postpone surgeries and tests so hospitals could increase capacity for COVID-19 patients will be able to begin rescheduling some of them. Both Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike declined to specify which procedures are still under a moratorium.

Before health care centers can begin performing surgeries, their officials must meet the state health department’s “exact specifications,” Pritzker said. Hospitals must have enough personal protective gear and ensure bed capacity is sufficient to handle new COVID-19 patients. Potential procedure recipients must also be proven to not have the virus.

“I know that even with these changes, this stay-at-home order leaves many restrictions in place and in the coming weeks, as we get to the point of working our way down the other side of the peak, there will be more to do to get people back to work and open up even more,” Pritzker said.

“Understand that these are not choices that are made arbitrarily,” he added. “These changes are what data says we can offer the people of Illinois without risking so much viral transmission that our hospitals will again become or potentially become overrun.”

The governor warned March and April’s restrictions will be implemented again if residents are found to be “breaking the rules.”

IDPH reported the state has 36,934 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up by 1,826 from Wednesday as 8,970 test results were reported in the past 24 hours – the second-largest single-day increase. The virus has been confirmed in 96 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

An additional 123 lives were lost in 14 counties over a 24-hour period as well, bringing the state’s total fatalities to 1,688.

That data is only one resource Pritzker said he consults when making novel coronavirus-related decisions. He also checks the number of Illinoisans who are hospitalized, in an intensive care unit and on a ventilator.

All that information is compiled by a “cohort” of experts recruited to serve in the state’s modeling group, the governor said. The group is tasked with analyzing daily statistics and developing a projection for how many new cases and deaths will occur in Illinois over time.

Pritzker said he uses more than one model, each of which changes as new data is collected, to arrive at the best decision. They become more accurate over time.

“There is no crystal ball available to us — there are only estimates,” the governor said. “...A model is an imperfect tool that we use to add context to the actual numbers that we can chart every day — cases, fatalities, hospitalizations, positive test results, ventilator and ICU usage.”

Developing a projection is also difficult, said Nigel Goldenfeld, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Astrobiology Institute for Universal Biology.

“Modeling an epidemic is rather like modeling the trajectory of a rocket, when you don’t know where it started from, what direction it was pointing and how much fuel is aboard the rocket,” Goldenfeld said. “Modeling an epidemic is not rocket science — it’s harder.”

Early projections predicted Illinois’ COVID-19 peak — the greatest number of confirmed cases and virus-related deaths — would occur in April. New models now show that peak is more likely to be a plateau of deaths per day between late April and early May, which is why Pritzker said he is extending the stay-at-home and social distancing orders.

The governor added that as a public official, it is important for him to use the “worst end of the model range” during a public health crisis.

“A pushing out of our estimated peak is a natural consequence, and the best indicator, that we are flattening the curve,” Pritzker said. “...Pushing the peak further down the line might not sound like good news, but I promise you, it saved lives.”

Illinois’ reopening will come in phases, Pritzker said, and his administration is finalizing the terms for the next step. He did not disclose details on Thursday of what that might look like, saying that new data can change the circumstances officials are currently expecting.

According to data shared by Ezike, the state’s hospital bed capacity has increased slowly and been able to “maintain relatively stable levels. There were 4,877 COVID-19 patients in Illinois hospitals as of Wednesday. Of those, 1,268 were in the intensive care unit and 766 were using ventilators. Twenty-nine percent of the state’s ICU beds, 34 percent of total hospital beds and 59 percent of ventilators were available statewide.

 

GOP Response

In a Thursday letter to Pritzker, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, asked for several concessions to be made in May.

Many of those listed — including allowance of non-essential surgeries and other medical procedures, access to state parks and retail stores to reopen — were announced by the governor in his daily COVID-19 update as definite actions.

Durkin said those additions to May’s stay-at-home order are “the first step in moving Illinois forward” in a statement issued after the governor’s daily briefing.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said in a statement his caucus submitted related recommendations and that he was “pleased” to see them reflected in Pritzker’s plans.

One thing he wanted to achieve which was not included is a “regional, phased-in reopening,” Brady said.

“Downstate communities, while following the proper social distancing guidelines, are not seeing the same number of cases, but they’re suffering just the same economically,” he wrote.

Durkin also requested the governor’s office to share the “scientific modeling and supporting documents” decisions are based upon.

“These orders have long-lasting effects on the people and businesses of Illinois, and it is only fair to publicly share the modeling that is being used to determine these critical decisions,” he wrote. “While we all know that modeling can change, the legislative branch, our residents and business owners deserve to know what the administration is using in its decision-making process.”

Pritzker, in a response to a reporter’s question about whether he would do so, said models are not his only source of information. He later added that the data in the models belongs to the universities and academic experts that created them.

“This isn’t the only thing I’m looking at, so the idea that somehow sharing one model with people is going to somehow instruct them about what next moves we’re going to make is, I think, a fallacy,” he said.

Stay-at-home changes at a glance

By BEN ORNER
Capitol News Illinois
borner@capitolnewsillinois.com

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday he is extending Illinois’ stay-at-home order through May 30 with certain modifications taking effect May 1.

“I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. Believe me, if I could make that happen right now I would. But this is the part where we have to dig in,” Pritzker said at his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago. “And we have to understand that the sacrifices that we've made as a state to avoid a worst-case scenario are working, and we need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job.”

Effective May 1, the stay-at-home order will feature the following changes:

  • State parks will reopen in phases under a plan from the state Department of Natural Resources. Fishing and boating will be limited to groups of two people. Golf courses will be allowed to operate only under “strict” safety and social distancing guidelines from the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
  • Essential businesses will include animal grooming services, greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries, allowing them to reopen. These businesses must follow social distancing and require employees and customers to wear face coverings.
  • Retail stores that are not already essential businesses and operations may re-open to fulfill telephone and online orders through delivery and curbside pick-up.
  • Face coverings will be required for everyone in indoor public places and in any other public place where they cannot maintain six-foot social distancing. The requirement applies to everyone over the age of two who is medically able to wear a mask.
  • Essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face-coverings to all employees who cannot maintain six-foot social distancing. Other new requirements will include occupancy limits and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only “essential” manufacturing lines.
  • Schools can allow the pick-up of necessary supplies and student belongings. College dormitory move-outs will have to follow social distancing and other public health guidelines.
  • Surgical centers and hospitals will be allowed to perform some elective surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions. They will need to meet certain criteria set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“These changes are what the data says that we can offer the people of Illinois without risking so much viral transmission that our hospitals will potentially become overrun,” Pritzker said. “That said, if we start to see crowds and people violating the order or breaking the rules, I will need to bring back these restrictions. I'm hopeful that we will not need to do that.”

For the first time in this pandemic, Pritzker released one of the projection models that his administration is using to make decisions. The model, developed by researchers at multiple Illinois universities and private groups, projects the state to see a peak or plateau of daily deaths between late April and early May.

If the stay-at-home order were lifted this week, Pritzker said, a second wave of COVID-19 would send deaths per day into the thousands by the end of May.

 

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The CNI news team breaks down the new surge in COVID-19 cases, how that's affecting the General Assembly and the results of the Nov. 3 general election that produced changes in the state Supreme Court and the Legislature.

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