Pritzker says Illinois ‘going it alone’ to expand COVID-19 testing as reopening plan faces criticism

Coronavirus

CHICAGO — State health officials said Sunday 1,656 cases of coronavirus disease and 57 related deaths have been confirmed in the state over the past day.

As of this weekend, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports a total of 77,741 COVID-19 cases and 3,406 deaths have been confirmed in the state, while 429,984 tests have been conducted.

Governor J.B. Pritzker defended his stay-at-home order and incremental plans to reopen, saying Sunday that Illinois residents have to change the way things are done until COVID-19 is “eradicated.”

The Democrat’s comments on CNN’s “State of the Union” came as he faced a southern Illinois salon owner’s lawsuit, criticism from some Republicans who deem his plans an overreach and a Chicago Tribune editorial accusing him of being “cautious to the extreme.”

Pritzker dismissed the criticism Sunday.

“The truth is that coronavirus is still out there,”‘ he told CNN. “It hasn’t gone anywhere. And so we all are going to have to change the way we do things until we’re able to eradicate it.”

While the number of hospitalizations have mostly remained mostly flat, Illinois continues to report a high number of daily cases and deaths. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or modest symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Pritzker said Illinois has been testing far more than other states, surpassing 20,000 daily tests Friday. The governor first issued a stay-at-home order in March, which has been extended to the end of May with some restrictions eased, including the reopening of some state parks. He released a five-phase plan Tuesday making reopening contingent on meeting certain metrics, with the last phase allowed only if there’s a vaccine or an effective treatment.

The moves have drawn complaints.

“Jobs, businesses, livelihoods and much more are being permanently — and unnecessarily — lost by the governor’s ham-handed approach to reopening Illinois,” said state Sen. Jason Plummer, an Edwardsville Republican., according to The Alton Telegraph.

Pritzker has also faced lawsuits, including one filed Friday in Clay County by salon owner Sonja Harrison. She alleged that Pritzker didn’t have constitutional authority to close her business, Visible Changes. A judge in same southern Illinois county has already ruled in favor of one Republican lawmaker who claimed the order violated his civil rights. The state has appealed.

Pritzker’s office didn’t immediate return a message Sunday about the salon lawsuit.

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