Illinois reports largest single-day rise in deaths, as rural areas challenge reopening plan

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CHICAGO — Illinois health officials said Wednesday 192 new deaths related to coronavirus disease have been reported over the past day, the largest single-day increase in the state since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 1,677 new cases of COVID-19 and 192 new deaths were identified across Illinois, bringing the statewide totals up to 84,698 cases and 3,792 deaths.

Over the past seven days, 17 percent of tests conducted across the state were found to be positive, according to the IDPH, while statewide testing totals are nearing half a million overall. Additionally, 4,563 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 1,208 in the intensive care and 714 on ventilators.

“Please know people of all ages are falling victim to this virus, this is a real disease, this is a serious disease, it’s not a hoax and people need to continue taking it seriously,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Wednesday.

According to the latest state data, the northeast region established in the “Restore Illinois” plan ticked slightly closer to the “positivity rate” needed to qualify for the next phase of reopening. As of Wednesday, the region — which includes Chicago and the collar counties — had a positivity rate of 20.7 percent, slightly above the 20 percent limit.

The northeast region meets all other criteria for the next phase of reopening, while all three of the other regions currently meet all criteria for moving on to “Phase 3.” The next phase would allow non-essential businesses to reopen with restrictions, including manufacturing, salons, retail stores and barbershops.

Speaking Wednesday, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the positivity rate in the northeast region is trending towards meeting that metric by May 28, when any regions would move on the next phase if they qualify.

Officials said Wednesday the Illinois legislature will meet for the first time since the start of the coronavirus crisis during a three-day special session starting May 20.

The announcement of this special session comes as Pritzker’s plan for reopening is facing a growing number of complaints and legal challenges from lawmakers, local leaders and businesses.

Earlier Wednesday in downstate Madison County, the county board voted overwhelmingly to allow retailers, restaurants, gyms and theaters to reopen at 25 percent occupancy, in direct conflict with the governor’s stay-at-home order. The Adams County Board also passed a resolution Tuesday night asking for modifications to the governor’s plan that would allow it to reopen sooner.

Additionally, a state representative from the Rockford area filed for a temporary restraining order to stop the plan, while a coalition of mayors in McHenry County are lobbying the governor directly to remove their communities from the plan’s Northeast Region, which they share with Chicago.

The governor threatened to withhold funds from counties who defy his order, and said some small businesses that are licensed by the state would also be held accountable.

A federal judge also rejected an effort by two Chicago-area churches who wanted clearance to hold their worship services with social distancing guidelines in place.

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