Chicago region falling short of reopening metrics, as Illinois’ COVID-19 peak now expected in mid-June

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CHICAGO — Most of the regions created by the Restore Illinois plan are set to move on to the next phase of reopening amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Governor JB Pritzker said Monday, with the possible exception of one: the northeast region which includes Chicagoland.

Pritzker said based on the latest data on coronavirus cases, deaths and testing, three of the four regions created by the plan are, “on pace to hit all of the metrics for moving forward after the 28 day period.” But according to official figures, the “positivity rate” of people tested for COVID-19 in the northeast region was at 22.3 percent as of May 8.

That’s higher than the 20 percent limit set by the plan as a requirement for moving on to the next “phase” of reopening. The northeast region spans not just Chicago, but also all of Cook, DuPage, Grundy, McHenry, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake and Will counties.

“There’s time for the northeast region to fall below this cap,” Pritzker said.

Additionally, coronavirus cases in Illinois are now expected to peak in mid-June, rather than in mid-May as predicted earlier. The extending of the expected peak is a “natural consequence of flattening the curve,” Pritzker said.

“The essence of models is they get smarter over time – the more days of data you have, like how many patients with COVID-19 were admitted to the hospital or how many tested positive, the better their ability to track outcomes,” Pritzker said.

The latest models also suggest Illinois will reach its peak in coronavirus cases without overwhelming the healthcare system in the state, according to health officials.

Additionally, all of the regions in the Restore Illinois plan are meeting requirements for a minimum amount of “surge” capacity in area hospitals needed in case of an outbreak.

Pritzker’s announcement came during his first virtual news briefing since the pandemic began, after a senior staff member tested positive for the virus.

The staff member was asymptomatic, and Pritzker and all other employees tested negative for the virus. About 20 staff members have been regularly reporting to work in person at the James R. Thompson Center during the pandemic. Now, everyone will work from home, following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Pritzker and his staff will return to the office “when IDPH deems appropriate.”

Also during Monday’s news conference, IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike confirmed 1,266 new coronavirus cases and 54 additional deaths statewide in the past 24 hours. In total, Illinois has 3,459 deaths and 79,007 cases of COVID-19.

Ezike also said that Illinois received a shipment of 140 cases of remdesivir, a drug which is being used to treat coronavirus, from the federal government. That shipment was distributed to 14 hospitals.

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