IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and other state officials speak at their daily press conference on May 1, 2020 | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Illinois reported over 3,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours — the largest number since the pandemic began — as the state’s newest stay-at-home order is now in place.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 3,137 new coronavirus cases and 105 additional deaths on Friday. The state’s total is now 56,055 positive cases and 2,457 deaths.

Laboratories have processed 14,821 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, officials said. The total number of people tested so far in the state is at 284,688.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that contact tracing, which is the process of tracking an infected patient’s close contacts when they were infectious, is crucial to reopening the state. The close contacts are then notified and can self-isolate from others.

“Illinois will be building on our existing infrastructure and expertise to shape a massive statewide contact tracing operation, gradually building over the coming weeks and then scaling up an army of contact tracers by the hundreds and then the thousands,” he said.

Pritzker said the state is looking to eventually have 30 contact tracing workers per 100,000 residents. He will announce more details on how people can get involved in the coming weeks.

Pritzker said on Thursday that people are still getting infected and dying. He reminded residents that the coronavirus is not just focused on the Chicago area and urged people to continue following his stay-at-home order.

“What we’ve tried to do is to follow the science, and I would encourage those who are thinking of breaking the rules to follow the science, too. What we know is that people put themselves at risk when they don’t wear masks, when they gather in large groups. We know that people who are going from place to place and who are asymptomatic are putting other people at risk,”

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Pritzker and IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike continued to emphasize the need for testing.

“Testing, tracing and PPE are key to our ability to reopen our economy and keep people safe. That’s why you’ve heard me talk so much about them so often,” Pritzker said.

“Testing is one of the keys to opening the state. Testing leads to quick identification of cases, quick treatment for those people who are identified as positive and immediate isolation of individuals that will help prevent spread,” Ezike said.

The White House has promised Illinois 620,000 individual swabs and 465,000 vials of VTM, which will be delivered the first week of May.

The state now has 177 testing sites and a new drive-thru testing facility is scheduled to open next week in Waukegan, Pritzker said.

The state’s newest stay-at-home order went into effect on Friday with modified guidelines, including some businesses like animal grooming and gardening centers being allowed to reopen.

All individuals are required to wear a mask where social distancing cannot be maintained.

The modified stay-at-home order includes 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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On Wednesday, Pritzker said that more than 20 million pieces of personal protection equipment has been distributed in the state.

He said 10.1 million surgical masks, 1.8 million N95 masks, 173,000 gowns, 7.7 million gloves and 440,000 face shields have been sent to hospitals, health departments and nursing homes in Illinois.

The state received a shipment from FEMA on Monday of more than 300,000 N95 masks, 500,000 KN95 masks, 1.1 million gloves and other equipment.

The state still needs 900,000 gowns and has submitted a critical needs request to FEMA. Pritzker said that the state’s stockpile is meant to supplement the stock at health care facilities and other frontline organizations who normally stock their own PPE directly from distributors.

Pritzker said that a new decontamination system has been deployed in Waukegan to help clean N95 masks. It is completely free and has a turnaround time of 24 hours. Each N95 can be decontaminated up to 20 times.

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The Pritzker Administration said the state has delayed cannabis dispensary licenses that were supposed to be issued by May 1 due to the pandemic.

IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said that the spread of the virus is slowing and prevention measures are working. The “R naught” value, which is how many people a single infected person infects, has shrunk.

“We have curved that number significantly. Significantly,” Ezike said. “We have gotten the desired effect. Have we gotten to the point where there’s no transmission of the virus? No. But we’ve done a fantastic job, and that’s why we need to stay the course.”

Pritzker said that the alternative care facility at McCormick Place has been scaled down due to less people needing medical attention from the coronavirus than initially expected.

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