Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike speak at a press conference April 24, 2020 | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

State officials announced over 2,700 new COVID-19 cases and 108 additional deaths in the past day as Illinois has surpassed its daily testing goal.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday that the state tested 16,124 within the past day, surpassing the state’s goal of 10,000 tests per day.

“Surpassing 10,000 tests is a very important milestone. It moves us in the direction of expanding our surveillance for outbreaks. More testing means we can potentially lower the infection rate, so we’re going to continue to push that number up,” Pritzker said.

He said that the state now has 112 public testing sites throughout Illinois. Pritzker noted that antibody tests could be an effective tool but it is unclear how accurate they are.

“This is a novel virus. Entirely new. So researchers don’t yet know the extent to which COVID-19 antibodies equals having immunity. That’s a question whose answers will only be revealed over weeks or months and maybe even years,” Pritzker said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said the state’s COVID-19 total has reached 39,658 cases and 1,795 deaths. The number of people tested so far is at 189,440, data shows.

Stay-at-home order extension

Gov. J.B. Pritzker extended Illinois’ stay-at-home order through May 29 with modified guidelines, including some businesses like animal grooming and gardening centers being allowed to reopen.

Pritzker said Illinois is projected to see a peek or plateau of deaths between late April and early May.

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If the stay-at-home order had been lifted this week, modeling shows there would have been a second outbreak in May, according to data put together by academic institutions and researchers.

“Make no mistake, Illinois has saved lives. By staying home and social distancing, we have kept our infection and death rates for the months of March and April thousands below the rates projected had we not implemented these mitigation strategies,” Pritzker said.

Projections show the effects of not implementing a stay-at-home and a second outbreak if the stay-at-home order was lifted at the end of April | Photo: Office of the Governor JB Pritzker.

“I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. But this is the part where we have to dig in and understand that the sacrifices 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,” he said on Thursday.

Pritzker is expecting to sign the new executive order next week and it will go into effect on May 1 through May 29.

The modified stay-at-home order will include the following changes:

  • Outdoor Recreation: State parks will begin a phased re-opening under guidance from the Department of Natural Resources. Fishing and boating in groups of no more than two people will be permitted. A list of parks that will be open on May 1 and additional guidelines can be found on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website HERE . Golf will be permitted under strict safety guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and when ensuring that social distancing is followed.
  • New Essential Businesses: Greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries may re-open as essential businesses. These stores must follow social distancing requirements and must require that employees and customers wear a face covering. Animal grooming services may also re-open.
  • Non-Essential Retail: Retail stores not designated as non-essential businesses and operations may re-open to fulfill telephone and online orders through pick-up outside the store and delivery.
  • Face Coverings: Beginning on May 1, individuals will be required to wear a face-covering or a mask when in a public place where they can’t maintain a six-foot social distance. Face-coverings will be required in public indoor spaces, such as stores. This new requirement applies to all individuals over the age of two who are able to medically tolerate a face-covering or a mask.
  • Essential Business and Manufacturing: Essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face-coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain six-feet of social distancing, as well as follow new requirements that maximize social distancing and prioritize the well-being of employees and customers. This will include occupancy limits for essential businesses and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential lines for manufacturers.
  • Schools: Educational institutions may allow and establish procedures for pick-up of necessary supplies or student belongings. Dormitory move-outs must follow public health guidelines, including social distancing.
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The Illinois Department of Public Health will also be issuing guidance to surgi-centers and hospitals to allow for certain elective surgeries of non-life-threatening conditions starting on May 1.

Facilities will need to meet specific criteria, including having proper personal protection equipment, ensuring enough overall space for COVID-19 patients remains available, and testing of elective surgery patients to ensure they do not have COVID-19.

Projections of COVID-19 deaths per day in Illinois | Photo: Office of the Governor JB Pritzker.

COVID-19 modeling

“While earlier projections relied on data from other countries applied to the United States, the modeling released today analyzes two months’ worth of daily data on COVID-19 deaths and ICU usage here in Illinois,” the governor’s office said.

Top researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Northwestern School of Medicine, the University of Chicago, the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health, along with McKinsey and Mier Consulting Group working on behalf of the City of Chicago and Cook County, worked on these projections as a cohort under Civis Analytics, a data analytics firm with experience spanning the public and private sectors.

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Estimated hospital resource needs at peek of coronavirus epidemic in Illinois | Photo: Office of the Governor JB Pritzker.

According to the state model, the stay-at-home order is having its intended effect of flattening the curve in Illinois, officials said.

Without the order, the model estimates there would have been 10 to 20 times as many deaths to date and that the peak death rate and peak resource usage would have been 20 to 30 times higher.