CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois is nearing 5,000 deaths from COVID-19, with 39 new deaths reported in the past 24 hours.
Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said there were 1,178 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the past day, including 39 more deaths.
Ezike said the relatively low number of new cases was typical on the first business day after a weekend, as there is typically a lag in reporting of new cases confirmed by hospitals over the weekends.
Illinois has had 113,195 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 4,923 deaths.
For the week that ended May 16, Illinois had 780 total deaths, down from 800 the week before, according to Ezike. It was the first time during the outbreak that Illinois has seen a week-to-week decline in COVID-19 deaths. That decline continued last week, when the state reported 675 total deaths.
“So I am hopeful that this fact is the beginning of a downward trend, but of course that also depends on all of us, and making sure that we’re doing all that we can to decrease the transmission of this virus,” Ezike said.
As of Monday night, there were 3,788 coronavirus patients being treated in Illinois hospitals, including 1,035 in intensive care, and 590 on ventilators, according to Ezike.
Gov. JB Pritzker said hospitalizations from the virus have reached a six-week low, with nearly 1,200 fewer beds in use for coronavirus patients.
The governor also said the state’s positive test rate for the past week was 9.2%, down from a peak of 23% in late Arpil.
“The fact that we’ve seen these numbers trend in a good direction, even after we opened things up in Phase 2, demonstrates the importance of everyday actions,” Pritzker said.
Ezike said Illinois also received its third shipment of remdesivir from the federal government last week. The medication earlier this month received FDA authorization for emergency use in treating COVID-19 cases. The state distributed all 353 new cases of remdesivir to hospitals around the state.
Every hospital that had at least one COVID-19 case between May 12 and May 19 received at least one case of remdesivir. The remaining cases were distributed proportionally among hospitals based on number of cases, according to Ezike.
“Until we have a definitive cure and a vaccine, we must continue to protect ourselves from the virus, and prevent further spread,” Ezike said.
Pritzker said all four regions of the state remain on track to enter Phase 3 of the “Restore Illinois” plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy.
Under Phase 3 of Restore Illinois, non-essential manufacturing, offices, and retail businesses would be allowed to reopen under approved safety guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Remote work, whenever possible, would still be encouraged.
Barber shops and salons would be allowed to reopen; and gyms and fitness clubs would be allowed to offer outdoor classes and one-on-one training; all with IDPH guidance. State parks also would be allowed to reopen, as would limited childcare and summer programs. Non-essential public gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed, as opposed to the current limit of only essential gatherings of up to 10 people.
Earlier this week, Pritzker announced bars and restaurants also would be able open outdoor service during Phase 3, but still would not be allowed to serve customers indoors until Phase 4. Tables outdoors would have to be six feet apart from each other, and staff would have to wear face coverings and take other social distancing precautions.
On Sunday, the governor released industry-specific guidelines to allow for the safe reopening of businesses during the next phase of the reopening plan. On Tuesday, he said the state would work with faith leaders to come up with guidelines for allowing churches to hold services for up to 10 people, which remains the limit on public gatherings in Phase 3.
The governor encouraged individual churches or religious groups to come up with their own ideas for safely reopening, and he said IDPH would work with them on guidelines. The governor noted the state already signed off on a plan by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to reopen churches, which fits within the framework of the governor’s stay-at-home order.
“We want them to come forward, we want them to have their own ideas, what will work for them, because it can be different in different facilities, and then we want to make sure that IDPH guides them in the proper way,” Pritzker said. “The vast majority of faith leaders just want to do it right, they want to keep their parishioners safe.”
Asked whether she could provide any advice for how Illinois residents might be able to expand their social circles during Phase 3, when non-essential public gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed, Ezike said the more anyone expands their circles, the greater risk of transmitting the virus.
“I can’t give anybody a COVID-free pass,” Ezike said. “We don’t necessarily know who is harboring the virus, and who isn’t. So, hopefully, if people are all being as careful as you are, and they have used their mask and social distance to the extent possible, hopefully their risk is low. But again, the more you increase your circle, the larger that circle is, absolutely, the more risks.”
Ezike said, while most people in Illinois have done a very good job of staying home, and limiting contact with others during the pandemic, if they expand their social circles in the next phase of reopening, “they will have to make these calculated decisions, and assume a risk that they’re comfortable with.”
“Again, there’s no way to know for sure if someone is harboring the virus or not, and that’s a that’s a little bit of a wild card,” she said. “So you can do what you feel is appropriate, take all the mitigation strategies that we do have, and employee those. Use your mask and keep your distance, and after that, that’s the most I can offer, I can’t promise anything after that.”