Pritzker: Lifting stay-at-home order now could mean 30,000 deaths
By Jim Hagerty
CHICAGO – Illinois would see its COVID-19 death toll skyrocket without its stay-at-home order.
That is the message Gov. J.B. Pritzker sent to reporters Thursday at his daily press briefing as he announced he is extending the statewide directive to May 30.
“The projections are clear,” the governor said.” If we lifted the stay-at-home order tomorrow, we would see our deaths per day shoot into the thousands by the end of May, and that would last well into the summer.”
Those projections are that between 20,000 and 30,000 Illinoisans would die if the order was lifted. In addition, hospital bed occupancy and medical equipment usage would be 20 to 30 times higher.
“Our hospitals would be full and very sick people would have nowhere to go,” Pritzker said. “People who might have otherwise won their fight against COVID would die because we wouldn’t be able to help them through.”
The governor said his projections are based on new models, ones that show Illinois will likely see a peak in new infections as late as mid-May. The governor likely won’t make the models public because he doesn’t own them. They were created by doctors and scientists from several Illinois universities, people Pritzker said are among the best in the county. He said theirs are better than national models, such as one created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), because they are tailored to Illinois.
Pritzker added that the stay-at-home order he issued March 20 and expires April 30 has worked.
“Make no mistake, Illinois has saved lives,” he said. “By staying home and social distancing, we have kept our infection and death rates for the months of March and April thousands below the rates projected had we not implemented these mitigation strategies.”
The extension of the stay-at-home directive will not be as restrictive as the first. Nonessential retailers will be allowed to offer curbside, pickup and delivery service beginning May 1. Garden centers and greenhouses may reopen as essential businesses.
Anyone older than 2 who’s medically able will be required to wear a mask or other face covering in public where the 6-foot social-distancing rule cannot be maintained. Businesses must require anyone coming into their facilities to be masked.
State parks will also begin to open in phases May 1. Fishing, hiking, biking and boating with no more than two people per craft will be permitted in the first phase under direction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
A list of parks that will be open May 1 and additional guidelines can be found on the IDNR website.
Golf will be permitted under safety guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and when ensuring that social distancing is followed.
Hospitals next month will start scheduling surgeries that were canceled because of the pandemic. Some elective procedures will resume, too. But medical centers must keep enough beds available for COVID-19 patients in the event of a surge.
Essential businesses and manufacturers will be required to provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing. They must also follow new requirements that maximize social distancing and prioritize the well-being of employees and customers. This will include occupancy limits for essential businesses and precautions such as staggering shifts and operating only essential manufacturing lines.
The governor said he has not directed police to look for violators, saying, “We are not encouraging arrests,” and that he expects citizens to do the right thing.
“If we start to see crowds or people violating the order or breaking the rules, I will need to bring back these restrictions,” he said. “I’m hopeful we will not need to do that.”
Municipalities have the power to enforce the order and rules that pertain to local parks and ordinances put in place by city and county officials. That includes the one passed by the Rockford City Council last month that gives the city power to fine organizations and individuals $750 per day for violations.
“I know how badly we all want our normal lives back,” Pritzker said. “But this is the part where we have to dig in and understand that the sacrifices we’ve made as a state to avoid a worst-case scenario are working, and we need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job.”
The governor will sign the new order next week.
Health officials announced 1,826 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 123 new deaths. There are now 36,934 cases statewide. Coronavirus-related fatalities are currently at 1,688.
Approximately 70% of Illinois’ COVID-19 cases and 70% of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in Cook County.