138 more Illinois COVID-19 deaths; Chicago region hits benchmark for next reopening phase — for now

In total, 3,928 people have died from the coronavirus. Officials on Thursday said there were 3,239 new cases among 22,678 test results. In total, there have been 87,937 positive cases in 98 of Illinois’ 102 counties.

SHARE 138 more Illinois COVID-19 deaths; Chicago region hits benchmark for next reopening phase — for now
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a virtual news briefing Thursday from his Chicago home.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a virtual news briefing Thursday from his Chicago home.


For weeks, Cook County residents have seen daily death tolls and high COVID-19 case counts that have put the county in an unfortunate national spotlight.

By Thursday, the county assumed the ominous moniker of having the most COVID-19 cases of any county in the United States with 58,457.

But Gov. J.B. Pritzker, facing daily criticisms from Republican legislators and the more than a million Illinoisans who are unemployed during the pandemic, signaled some hope for the Northeast region of his reopening plan, which includes Cook, the collar counties — and counties that aren’t too happy to be in that region, including Grundee and Kankakee.

For the first time on Thursday, the state’s Northeast region met the medical benchmarks set by the Pritzker administration to potentially move from the second phase of the reopening plan to the third phase. That would allow some additional businesses to resume operations on a limited basis when the current stay-at-home order expires May 29.

Those metrics include a 19.9% testing positivity rate for the Northeast region, just barely hitting the 20% standard required by Pritzker’s office over a two-week period.

“Remember, they need to go through a time period, and there needs to be an averaging of those metrics,” Pritzker said.

All other regions previously had been on track to enter the third phase and are still in line to do so.

Meanwhile, health officials said another 138 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois, raising the state’s death toll to 3,928. And newly reported 3,239 cases are among the 22,678 test results received by the state a day earlier.

In total, there have been 87,937 coronavirus cases confirmed in 99 of Illinois’ 102 counties since the pandemic hit the state.

More than 512,000 people have been tested overall, with the state’s rolling positive rate over the last week at about 17%, officials said.

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With the latest cases reported on Thursday, Cook County overtook Queens County, New York, which reported 58,084 as of Thursday, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Cook County added 2,051 cases over the last 24 hours compared to 336 for Queens, which has fewer than half the number of residents compared to Cook County but a much higher population density.

But Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike called the increase in cases “a function of increasing our testing.

“No one has captured all cases of COVID-19 — they have captured all cases for which people have been tested,” Ezike said. “This is getting us closer to the actual numbers, but we’re far, far, far from having the actual numbers.”

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