Illinois has not yet reached its COVID-19 peak, which was expected between late April and early May. New projections show it could come as late as mid-June.
“In many ways this news is disheartening. We have made great progress but it’s forced us to remain at a moderated, though still high level of key metrics for this extended period,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a virtual press briefing from his Chicago home, where he is quarantining after a senior staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
Pritzker said he tested negative for the virus on Sunday.
“Pushing the peak down and therefore to a longer time frame might not sound like good news to some, but I promise you it is saving lives,” he said.
On Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,266 new COVID-19 cases and 54 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing statewide totals to 79,007 and 3,549, respectively. To date, there have been 442,425 tests processed, with 12,441 in the past 24 hours.
The updated prediction for peak cases factored in daily death and hospital capacity data over the past two and a half weeks.
“A pushing out of our estimated peak is a natural consequence of flattening the curve,” Pritzker said.
The state’s modeling efforts are led by top researchers from the IDPH, Chicago Department of Public Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern School of Medicine and the University of Chicago, and managed by Civis Analytics, according to the governor’s office. The models use IDPH data for COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations, and ventilator and ICU usage from Illinois hospitals.
The modeling also shows Illinois hospitals can handle the current rate of infection, according to Pritzker, who says if all mitigation efforts were lifted at the end of the month there would be a new surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the state.
“What we’ve been aiming to do since early March is slow down the exponential rate of transmission. When we do that it leads to a slower rate of infections over a longer period of time, giving our health care system the ability to treat those who have complications and giving our pharmaceutical researchers time to develop effective treatments and potentially a vaccine,” Pritzker said. “Remember, no one can truly stop this virus without a vaccine.”
During his briefing Monday, Pritzker also provided an update on his five-phase plan to reopen the economy, which breaks the state into four regions – northeast, north-central, central and southern Illinois – based on IDPH emergency medical services regions.
Each region can move independently through the five phases as businesses, education and recreational activities are restored. Currently, all four regions are in phase two and the soonest any region could advance to the next phase is May 29, according to the governor’s plan.
So far, all of the regions are on track to move forward into the next phase, except for the northeast region, which includes Cook County, because its positivity rate is 22.3% — higher than the 20% cap required by the state, according to Pritzker.
But there’s still hope.
“The positivity rate cap is measured over a 14-day period, so there’s time for the northeast region,” Pritzker said.
As of midnight Friday, the north-central region had a positivity rate or 9.1% while the central and southern regions had rates of 6% and 10.5%, respectively.
All four regions have seen a dip in hospitalization rates since May 1, with decreases of 18.6% in the northeast region; 35.8% in the north-central region; 44.4% in the central region; and 54.3% in the southern region.
Another requirement for moving into the next phase is no overall increase in hospital admissions for coronavirus-like illness across a 28-day period. All four regions are on track to meet this metric, according to Pritzker.
Each region must also meet requirements of available surge capacity of at least 14% for medical-surgical beds, ICU beds and ventilators. All four regions are currently meeting those hospital metrics, according to Pritzker.
As the state approaches May 29, Pritzker said he will provide regular updates on these metrics for each region.
Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources
Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including:
—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick
Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:
—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue
If you think you have COVID-19:
Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
—Illinois’ COVID-19 website
—Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IDPH COVID-19 email link
—City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link