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Pritzker Touts Illinois’ Successful Path To Friday’s Reopening, But Warns New Surges Will Bring Back Restrictions

I'm not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back if we see a surge, Gov. JB Pritzker said at an afternoon news conference.

Gov. JB Pritzker 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 — All regions of Illinois, including Chicago’s, will move into Phase 4 of the coronavirus reopening plan Friday, but Gov. JB Pritzker warned Thursday he will move specifics parts of the state back into the more restrictive Phase 3 if new cases surge.

“The virus hasn’t gone away, and when people aren’t wearing face coverings, gathering in large groups and not practicing physical distancing, they’re getting sick. And some are dying,” Pritzker said at a press conference. “That’s why I’m not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back if we see a surge.”

Pritzker noted a host of key metrics have seen dramatic improvements over the past two months, including deaths, new confirmed cases, tests administered, hospitalizations and ventilators in use.

But new confirmed cases and deaths continue. On Thursday, 41 more deaths and 894 confirmed cases were reported.

There have now been at least 6,810 deaths and 139,434 confirmed cases statewide.

Pritzker listed the progress seen in these metrics:

• A 65 percent decrease in deaths per day since the peak six weeks ago.

• A 76 percent drop in new confirmed cases since a peak seven weeks ago.

• A more than 60 percent drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

• A 67 percent drop in ventilator use since the high in mid-April.

There has been an uptick in cases and deaths over the last two days, but Pritzker said it’s more important to look at trends and day-to-day statistics don’t provide an accurate view of the pandemic. Illinois has seen declines in new cases and deaths for more than five weeks, officials said.

Still, Pritzker said the state is moving cautiously, and it could lift restrictions and capacity limits over the course of Phase 4.

“I always think, ‘Are we doing it right? Are we handling this right? Are we measured in our reopening?’ And I think we are measured in this reopening. We’re being careful,” Pritzker said. “We’re taking this as it comes. We’re watching [the numbers] very closely.”

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, congratulated Illinois residents for getting to Phase 4. But she also warned of reversing the trends.

“You did it. Illinois is being touted across the country of getting it right,” Ezike said. “If you weren’t originally sure that staying at home and masking and physically distancing and washing your hands helped slow disease transmission, hopefully you’re a believer now.”

RELATED: Not Wearing A Mask Is Like Playing Russian Roulette, Illinois’ Top Doctor Says

But Ezike warned that, with no approved vaccine or highly effective treatment, people will need to learn to live with COVID-19 for now.

“Because the virus is still out there, we still have to remember the things that got us to this good situation so that we can continue to safely coexist with COVID,” she said.

“Maybe we need to get cozy with COVID because it seems like this virus won’t be leaving us anytime soon.”

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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