Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and state officials speak at their daily press conference on May 18, 2020 | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a new contact tracing collaborative as Illinois saw 59 new COVID-19 deaths on Monday and the lowest number of coronavirus patients in the hospital since April.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said there were 2,294 new coronavirus cases and 59 additional deaths on Monday. The state’s COVID-19 case total is now at 96,485 positive cases and 4,234 deaths.

Laboratories have processed 21,297 tests in the past 24 hours, officials said. The total number of people tested so far in the state is at 603,241.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative during his daily press conference on Monday. It is a locally-driven approach to scale up contact tracing in Illinois.

“With Illinois’ daily availability of testing among the best in the nation, we want to grow our voluntary contact tracing so we can further control and reduce the rate of spread of COVID-19 and stop outbreaks in their tracks,” Pritzker said.

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“Knowing if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 gives everyday Illinoisans the ability to keep their families and co-workers and friends safe by helping them seek testing or self-isolate, and it helps us build a public health system that truly supports them if their exposure leads to actual infection,” he said.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, a contact tracer will interview them to learn about their recent contacts with family, friends, coworkers, commuters, classmates and others.

If their exposure to any of those people in the last 48 hours was significant, those individuals will be notified and told that they had been exposed to someone who has the virus, Pritzker said.

The health departments in Lake County and St. Clair County are the first two to pilot this initiative, which is modeled from a contact tracing program in Massachusetts.

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“This will be a tech-based approach that will innovate and scale up existing systems. Illinois will be implementing a state-of-the-art project management and comprehension tool, to collect and hold all raw information relating to contact tracing for COVID-19 and providing forward-facing relationship management software for deployment throughout the state,” the governor’s office said.

IDPH data shows that the number of hospital beds used by COVID-19 patients as of Sunday evening was at 4,120, which is the lowest since April 12. Of those 4,120 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, 1,096 were in the ICU and 636 on ventilators.

On Saturday, protesters gathered at the Thompson Center in Chicago and the State Capitol Building in Springfield in a rally to reopen the state.

All four Restore Illinois health regions continue to meet the criteria needed to move into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan on May 29.

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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.

The positivity rate, which is the portion of daily tests that come back positive, continues to decrease as well. It reached 14% statewide on Monday based on a seven-day average.

“[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,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Friday.