Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and state officials speak at their daily press conference on May 20, 2020 | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced some changes to Phase 3 of his reopening plan as Illinois hospitals continue to see a decrease in COVID-19 patients on ventilators and in the ICU.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) said there were 2,388 new coronavirus cases and 147 additional deaths on Wednesday. The state’s COVID-19 case total is now at 100,418 positive cases and 4,525 deaths.

Laboratories have processed 21,029 tests in the past 24 hours, officials said. The total number of people tested so far in the state is at 642,713.

“I want to start off with some additional good news. We are seeing a decrease in the numbers of people hospitalized, the numbers of people in the ICU, and the numbers of individuals on ventilators associated with COVID-19,” IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said on Wednesday.

3,914 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital as of Tuesday evening. Of those, 1,005 were in an ICU bed and 554 were on ventilators, Ezike said.

“This is the lowest number since we were capturing these numbers that we have had for COVID-19 patients in the hospital,” she added.

Pritzker made various updates to his Phase 3 of Restore Illinois plan on Wednesday. All four regions of Illinois are expected to move into Phase 3 on May 29.

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“We are by no means out of the woods, but directionally, things are getting better. And because of these advances, we are able to make some modifications to allow more activity during Phase 3 of our reopening plan Restore Illinois,” Pritzker said.

“Our mission has always been to get people back to work, get students back to school and return to as much normalcy as possible without jeopardizing the health and safety of Illinoisans,” he added.

Bars and restaurants will have the option to resume outdoor seating operations, Pritzker said. Tables must be six feet apart and away from sidewalks.

All retail stores can open their doors to in-person shopping with capacity limits.

All state parks will reopen in Phase 3 and indoor and outdoor tennis facilities can reopen with precautions, Pritzker said. Golf courses can allow foursomes out on the same tee times and golf carts will be allowed for one person per cart or one immediate household per cart.

Boating and camping of up to ten people in a group will also be permitted along with driving ranges, outdoor shooting ranges and paintball courses being allowed to open.

Gyms, health clubs and fitness studios can provide one-on-one personal training in indoor facilities and outdoors there can be fitness class of up to ten people.

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Personal care services like nail salons, tattoo shops, hair salons and spas can open with safety precautions and capacity limits.

On Tuesday, Pritzker said that he was optimistic Illinois had peaked and is currently on the downfall as he announced the state is leading the nation in testing per capita.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen Illinois make significant, measurable progress in growing our daily testing numbers. Today, we reached another major milestone: Among the most populous states in the United States, Illinois has now overtaken New York to become the #1 state in the nation for testing per capita over the past seven days,” Pritzker said.

“I am optimistic that we are falling from a peak; however, I want to point out that if you look at all the metrics, they’re not all headed straight down,” he said on Tuesday. “Some of them have sort of flattened, they’re floating a little bit off their peak.”

Average tests completed per capita over the last seven days. | Photo provided by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office.

On Monday, Pritzker announced the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative, which 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.

“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.