Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday the toughest restrictions in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus could lift in regions across the state as soon as Jan. 15.
In addition, officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that the mandate requiring everyone older than age 2 to cover their face while in public had been extended for 150 days from Jan. 4.
By Jan. 15, it will be clear whether Illinois will see a surge in coronavirus cases after the holidays, Pritzker said.
“We don't know [yet], is the truth,” Pritzker said. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Since Nov. 20, the restrictions suspended indoor dining and drinking and reduced the number of people who can be inside a business. The rules also closed theaters, museums and other institutions.
The rules will be changed on a region-by-region basis, Pritzker said.
Before state officials lift restrictions, a region must have a positivity rate of less than 12% for three consecutive days, declining COVID-19 hospitalizations for seven out of the past 10 days and more than 20% of its ICU and hospital beds available.
Both Chicago and Cook County are currently meeting those benchmarks, even as the city has seen an increase in cases since Christmas and a rising test positivity rate.
However, the toughest restrictions would still be required in the area around St. Louis, southern Illinois and western Illinois as well as DuPage and Lake counties, according to data compiled by state health officials.
Illinois health officials reported 7,569 new confirmed and probable cases of the virus across the state Wednesday, and 139 additional deaths.
Despite the governor’s cautious optimism, the pandemic in Illinois reached another sobering mark on Wednesday, when health officials reported 17,096 total deaths linked to the pandemic and 999,288 infections.
The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percentage of total tests is 8.4% on Wednesday, according to IDPH. The state’s test positivity rate is 9.9%.
In Chicago, the seven-day test positivity rate is 10.2%, and in suburban Cook County it is 10%, according to IDPH regional data.
As of Tuesday night, 3,928 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19, according to IDPH. Of those, 812 patients were in intensive care units and 451 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators, IDPH reports.