By Jim Hagerty
CHICAGO – Although Illinois is expected to be under a modified stay-at-home executive order through the end of the month, some areas of the state could open sooner.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday regions “heading down the other side”of the COVID-19 curve could start opening up according to the plan presented by the White House last month.
“If it’s 14 days on a downslide of those numbers, then absolutely,” Pritzker said during his daily press briefing as hundreds of protesters gathered outside Thompson Center.
Pritzker said the downslide must show a clear decline in hospitalization rates, which have been holding steady for the past week. As of Thursday, 4,900 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state. Of those, 1,263 were in intensive care. Of those in ICU, 777 patients were on ventilators.
“I want as much as everybody else does for everybody to get back to work and for us to move toward normalcy,” he added. “I also want to say that I’m not going to do it until we know people are safe and it isn’t going to be because some protester has a sign that says, you know, ‘Liberate Illinois.'”
Protesters also marched outside the capitol in Springfield Friday, calling for Pritzker to lift the statewide order that has kept many businesses closed and people largely confined to their homes since March 21.
Beginning Friday, non-essential businesses are permitted to offer curbside, pickup and delivery, while state parks were opened with limited amenities. Churches are considered essential under the stay-at-home extension but they’re limited to drive-through services and in-person gatherings of no more than 10 worshipers.
Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reported 3,137 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, the highest daily count so far. Ezike said the increase is partly attributed to more testing. Within the past 24 hours, labs processed 14,821 specimens for a total of 284,688.
Ezike also reported 105 additional COVID-related deaths, 69 of which occurred in Cook County. Four deaths were reported in Winnebago County Friday.
Statewide, 56,055 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, a total that includes positive lab tests, presumptive positives, those who have recovered and 2,457 deaths. Cases have now been reported in 97 of the state’s 102 counties.
Winnebago County has seen 464 cases, including 18 fatalities.