Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that updated models show Illinois may not hit its COVID-19 peak until mid-June as health officials announced another day of lower cases and deaths.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 1,266 new coronavirus cases and 54 additional deaths on Monday. The state’s COVID-19 total is now at 79,007 positive cases and 3,459 deaths.
Laboratories have processed 12,441 tests in the past 24 hours, officials said. The total number of people tested so far in the state is at 442,425.
“Since our last modeling update, the researchers have been able to plug approximately 2.5 more weeks of data into their models, and that’s significant. The essence of models is that they get smarter over time,” Pritzker said during his Monday briefing.
Pritzker said on April 23 that the models showed a peak in late April or early May. That’s been extended again into sometime in mid-May through mid-June, he said.
“In many ways, this news is disheartening. A pushing-out of our expected peak is a natural consequence of flattening the curve. Pushing the peak down and therefore to a longer timeframe might not sound like good news to some, but I promise you: It is saving lives,” Pritzker said.
“Under current mitigations, hospital bed and ventilator capacity remains sufficient to treat COVID-19 patients. In other words, Illinois will reach the peak without overloading the state’s health care system as seen in other parts of the world,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
The state’s modeling efforts are led by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern School of Medicine, the University of Chicago, and the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health.
The north-central, central and southern regions of the Restore Illinois plan are on pace to moving forward into phase 3 after the 28-day period.
The Northeast region, which includes Chicago and the collar counties, is not meeting the requirement of the 20 percent positivity rate cap as of May 8, officials said.
Pritzker and his staff members are working from home after a senior staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
The senior staff member was asymptomatic and tested positive late last week. They were in close contact with Pritzker and other employees, the governor’s office said Monday morning.
Pritzker and all other staff reporting to the office tested negative. Pritzker was tested again early on Sunday and tested negative.
On Sunday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported the fewest number of deaths since May 4 and only 4,293 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Saturday, which was the lowest since April 13.
On April 12, the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators was 800. That number declined to 709 on Saturday.
Pritzker appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” program with Jake Tapper Sunday morning.
“I have not been counting on the White House because there have been too many situations in which they made promises not delivered,” Pritzker said, adding “We’re going it alone, as the White House has left all the states to do.”
He said that the White House recently promised to send 620,000 testing swabs and 465,000 viles of viral transport media. The shipment was scheduled to begin arriving in early May but was delayed. It is expected to arrive on Sunday, Pritzker said.
A study conducted by Harvard University shows Illinois needs to do at least 64,000 tests a day to begin reopening.
Pritzker promised that Illinois will continue to grow testing on their own. He said that Illinois is imitating Massachusetts’ contact tracing program, which is crucial to reopening the state.
“We think we can have a massive contact tracing effort up in the next few weeks,” Pritzker said.
The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board wrote an editorial on Wednesday criticizing Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan.
“He’s being more than just cautious. He has moved the goal posts… Pritzker’s state goal was to ‘get the outbreak under control’ — not eradicate COVID-19 completely… We don’t want his pursuit of the perfect outcome to unnecessarily delay the restarting of activities,” the board said.
Pritzker responded to the board’s editorial by saying they “did not read the plan.”
“The truth is, coronavirus is still out there. It hasn’t gone anywhere. We all are going to have to change the way we do things until we’re able to eradicate it,” he said.
“If the Chicago Tribune thinks everything is going to go back to normal without us having a very effective treatment, or a vaccine — they’re just dead wrong,” Pritzker added.