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COVID-19 deaths surpass 4,000 in Illinois; state continues to grow testing, Pritzker says

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and state officials speak at their daily press conference on May 15, 2020 | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discussed increasing COVID-19 testing in Illinois on Friday as officials announced 130 additional virus deaths in the past day.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced 2,432 new coronavirus cases and 130 additional deaths on Friday. The state’s COVID-19 case total is now at 90,369 positive cases and 4,058 deaths.

Laboratories have processed 26,565 tests in the past 24 hours, officials said. The total number of people tested so far in the state is at 538,602.

Pritzker noted that the White House called for all states to grow their testing to 2% of their populations. Illinois is testing more than double that at 4.7% of the population a month.

Pritzker emphasized that testing is very important and the state won’t stop increasing testing until the pandemic is over. There are now 251 state operated testing sites.

The positivity rate, which is the portion of daily tests that come back positive, continues to decrease.

“[It] can be an indication of how widespread COVID-19 infections are among our population. We all want the positivity rate to come down, which would indicate a declining number of people getting sick from the virus. The great news is that the positivity rate in Illinois is coming down,” Pritzker said.

The statewide seven-day rolling positivity rate is 16%, according to IDPH on Friday.

On Thursday, Pritzker announced that the Northeast health region, which includes Chicago and the collar counties, has met the criteria for moving on to Phase 3 of his Restore Illinois plan later this month.

All four health regions are currently in Phase 2 of the five-phase plan but the Northeast region was the only one not on track to enter Phase 3 on May 29.

That changed on Thursday when the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released new data showing all six requirements had been met after the region’s positivity rate dropped below 20%.

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Phase 3 of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan allows retail, offices, barbershops and other businesses to reopen with precautions. All regions must continue to maintain a positivity rate of less than 20% along with five other metrics in order to move on to the next phase.

“Please know people of all ages are falling victim to this new virus. This is a real disease. This is a serious disease. It is not a hoax and people need to take it seriously,” IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said.

“Please continue to stay home. Please maintain physical separation or social distancing. Please wear your mask. Please help us decrease the spread of this virus,” Ezike added.

Pritzker talked on Wednesday about how the state is trying to address COVID-19 in long-term care facilities.

He said that IEMA and IDPH have coordinated to deliver personal protective equipment to more than 1,200 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state.

IDPH prioritizes testing at those facilities and officials are testing all residents and staff at facilities that do not have a known COVID-19 outbreak.

Pritzker warned business and leaders who choose to defy the state’s stay-at-home order.

“To the small minority of businesses that choose to ignore the medical doctors and the data and to ignore your legal obligations to the residents of your communities: there will be consequences,” he said.

Business and individuals that are licensed by state agencies will be “held accountable for breaching public health orders,” Pritzker said.

“Counties that try to reopen in defiance may not be reimbursed by FEMA for damages they caused because they ignored the law. Local law enforcement and Illinois State Police can and will take action,” Pritzker said.


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