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Stay At Home Order ‘Could Go Into June,’ Lightfoot Says As Coronavirus Peak Predicted For Mid-May

Illinois saw 119 new deaths from COVID-19 and 1,551 new cases on Tuesday.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, speaks at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Experts now expect the peak of the coronavirus crisis in Illinois to come in mid-May, Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday, a new projection he strongly hinted means the stay at home order will be extended well past April 30.

The state shouldn’t reopen until at least 14 days after it’s crossed the peak and seen declining cases, Pritzker said. If the peak is in mid-May, that would mean the state might not reopen until the end of the month or early June.

“Illinois is not even close to its peak,” the governor said. “We’re weeks away now. And you won’t really know you’ve hit your peak until you’re on the other side of it and are going down.”

Previous projections saw a mid- to late April peak in new coronavirus cases. The latest projection is from modeling that takes into account a slower rate of increase because of the state’s social distancing actions.

Pritzker didn’t announce an extension of the stay at home order Tuesday, but he indicated it was coming.

“We’ll be talking more about our models in the coming couple of days, but suffice to say we’re working hard to try to make changes to the stay at home order,” the governor said. “If in fact the peak comes in mid-May or whenever that may come, we need to have 14 days after that, as you know, according to many of the experts, where the numbers are going down.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, announced 119 more people died in the past 24 hours and another 1,551 people tested positive.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, meanwhile, said she expects the governor’s stay at home order to be extended past the current April 30 deadline.

“But I’ve made no secret of the fact that April 30 is, I think, no longer a viable date,” the mayor said Tuesday. “I would expect an extension of the stay at home order and the other orders that were put in place … to go through sometime in May. It certainly could go into June, but June 30 is just kinda an outside marker.”

Lightfoot said Chicago needs multiple things to be ready to reopen: new cases need to drop dramatically, the number of people requiring ICU beds needs to fall, there needs to be more widespread testing and there needs to be contact tracing.

“Those are the bare minimum, and we’re not there yet on any of those metrics,” Lightfoot said. “We’re still not even close to being out of the woods.”

Though the state is working on creating a contact tracing program, Lightfoot said that needs to be done at the local level through the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The director of that department, Dr. Allison Arwady, said contact tracing is their “bread and butter” and they’re expanding that work. Chicago’s officials are talking with the state and federal experts about how to do that, she said.

Lightfoot said she’s also continuing to emphasize that people should wear masks and follow the stay at home order to slow the spread of coronavirus here.

Pritzker gets asked each day by reporters if and when he’ll extend the stay at home order, and each time he said it is being reviewed constantly, with the final decision to be made based on science and safety.

This weekend, the governor suggested the state could reopen in stages — which could mean Chicago, with its higher population density and cluster of coronavirus cases, would face closures and stricter social distancing measures for longer than other parts of the state.

Illinois has now seen 33,059 confirmed cases of coronavirus, although officials assume the true number of actual cases is far higher. There have been 1,468 deaths.

Some states are already emerging from their stay at home orders, a controversial move that Pritzker said will reverse progress already made.

“We will be making some changes to the stay at home order as it is, but it is true that it is working. To pull it off … to remove it, as I see some other governors may want to do … is to simply open everything back up to infection,” he said.

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