SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has still not put the brakes on the state’s reopening plan, as Illinois continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases and in the overall infection rate.
Officials announced 1,195 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease, including 24 additional deaths, Saturday. The jump marks the third day in a row the number of new cases has topped 1,000.
There were 587 cases reported on July 7.
The state seeing an increase in cases since late June, a possible indicator that spikes in several states, namely Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, may be making their way to Illinois. Florida has seen nearly 100,000 new cases in the last week, while there now has been more than 114,000 infections in Georgia.
The surge in Georgia has prompted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) to issue a stay-at-home order, snapping the city back into Phase 1 of its reopening plan. Although Gov. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) criticized the move, calling it “both non-binding and legally unenforceable,” Bottoms isn’t relenting.
As of Friday, Fulton County, Georgia, has seen 10,021 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Statewide, there have been 20,718 new cases since July 4. More than 1,200 people in Fulton County have been hospitalized.
In Illinois, as of Friday night, 1,398 people were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 321 patients were in the ICU and 139 patients with the disease were on ventilators.
The state is still in Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, which has allowed bars and restaurants to open with capacity limits and retail to open with social distancing. Chicago, however, has recently ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving booze at 11 p.m., and close at midnight. Lake Michigan beaches are also closed.
Illinois youth sports, gatherings of 50, salons and gyms have also been given green lights.
Meanwhile, in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), was called a hero for flattening the coronavirus infection rate to 1%, an uptick of cases could prompt officials to halt its reopening. Cuomo has already issued a quarantine advisory to anyone traveling to his state from Florida, Georgia and 17 other states.
The New York Post reported Friday that Cuomo expects another bump in cases and that travel advisories will be unable to stop it.
Even as Cuomo shuttered his state with some of the nation’s strictest social-distancing measures, COVID-19 infected nearly a half-million people and killed more than 32,000, mostly in New York City. And with the nation’s younger demographic (20-40) now largely ignoring those measures across the county, things could only get worse in terms of the number of infections.
“The other states don’t take the same precautions, Cuomo said. “It rises up in the other states and then is going to come back here from the other states. That’s what’s going to happen.The only question is how far up our rate goes. But you can’t have it all across the country and not come back. You think nobody’s coming here from California and these states?”
Illinois, with two international airports in the nation’s third-largest city, is in a similar position. Thousands of people each day fly into Chicago from all parts of the world, not to mention those who pass through by car.
Illinois also continues to increase its testing footprint, something Pritzker, a Democrat, said is responsible for what is still regarded as a strong mitigation strategy. State labs processed 32,345 tests since Friday, and nearly 100,000 in the last three days. The preliminary seven-day infection rate from July 4-10 is currently at 3.0%, representing a slight increase from 2.4% reported a month ago.
The current infection rate is nowhere near a 23-percent high seen this spring as coronavirus was moving through dense areas and testing was scarce.
“Illinois has built one of the largest testing programs in the nation,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “And that’s part of the reason why we’ve made so much progress fighting COVID-19 across the state. Performing 30,000 tests per day allows us to monitor the progress of our mitigation strategies, target our testing to our vulnerable populations and reduce the spread of this awful virus. And, so far, it’s working. Our COVID cases are down 71% a high nine weeks ago. Hospitalizations are down 70%.”
Amid spikes in other states, some of which opened early, against recommendations set forth by the federal government, Pritzker said Illinois will continue to protect vulnerable populations– those most at risk of becoming seriously ill.
“It’s more crucial than ever to respond to hotspots,” he said, “working directly with local communities (with assistance) in the most meaningful way that we can.”
According to recent reports, it may be more important than ever to ramp up those efforts. Officials at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center say the majority of cases they are seeing of late are largely linked to younger people who have been traveling and gathering in large groups without face coverings or social distancing.
Findings indicate that because the majority of new cases are either asymptomatic or mild, social distancing and face coverings in public are crucial to prevent spread among the elderly or those with preexisting conditions.
As of this report, there have been 152,962 cases of COVID-19, including 7,168 deaths, in all 102 counties. The Illinois Department of Public Health PH is now reporting both confirmed and probable cases and deaths.
Illinois entered Phase 4 of the five-phase Restore Illinois plan June 26. The state isn’t expected to reach Phase 5 until there’s a coronavirus vaccine or widespread treatment.