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105 more COVID-19 deaths as Illinois officials remind public to wear face coverings

IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and other state officials speak at their daily press conference on May 2, 2020 | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Illinois reported almost 2,500 new COVID-19 cases and 105 more deaths as officials urged the public to continue social distancing and wear face coverings.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 2,450 new coronavirus cases and 105 additional deaths on Saturday. The state’s total is now 58,505 positive cases and 2,559 deaths.

Laboratories have processed 15,208 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, officials said. The total number of people tested so far in the state is at 299,896.

IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said that 4,717 coronavirus patients are hospitalized — 1,250 of them are in the ICU and 789 on ventilators.

“We know that social distancing works and it has limited the spread of this virus. The weather is nice. People are getting antsy. You have cabin fever. And boredom affects both the children and the adults. We all can suffer anxiety and depression and kids may be starting to act out,” she said.

Ezike encouraged people to still be physically active while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that even though the number of cases continues to grow, the infection rate has decreased from 21-22% to “something in the high teens.”

“The gross number of cases, positive cases, isn’t really an indication of much,” he said.

Pritzker also reminded residents to wear face coverings. “Face coverings are vital for people to wear. In fact, it may be the most important thing that you can do to save other people’s lives, to keep other people from getting infected and to protect people in your own home. If everybody does it, then you are protecting other people.”

“We continue to climb this curve, though at a much lower pace. The curve that has us increasing the number of hospitalizations and ICU beds filled in our state. It’s true even in areas of southern and central Illinois as it is in Chicago and Cook County and the collar counties,” he said.

Pritzker said on Friday that if a certain region of the state sees 14 straight days of a decrease in cases, hospitalization and ICU rates, then they could reopen before the end of the stay-at-home order on May 30.

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,” Pritzker said.

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

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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