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Third consecutive day of fewer than 100 COVID-19 deaths, as hospital metrics improve

There have been 4,234 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state also reported 2,294 cases, bringing the total positive count to 96,485.

Volunteers with Midwest Bible Church stand in the center of North Cicero Avenue earlier this month.
Volunteers with Midwest Bible Church stand in the center of North Cicero Avenue earlier this month.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Officials on Monday reported another 59 COVID-19 deaths, although the state has seen fewer than 100 deaths for three consecutive days and hospital metrics continue to improve in the Chicago area.

There have been 4,234 coronavirus deaths in the state since the pandemic began, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The state also reported 2,294 cases, bringing the total positive count to 96,485. The state received 21,290 tests back on Sunday.

Illinois has seen three consecutive days in which fewer than 100 people have died. On Saturday, 74 deaths were reported; on Sunday, 51 deaths. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration last week released projections that predicted a daily range of 50 to 150 deaths into June or July. One research institution predicted a range of between 50 and 300 deaths.

There are 4,120 people in state hospitals with a COVID-19 diagnosis, according to Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Of those, 1,096 were in the ICU and 636 of those patients are on ventilators. Those numbers are an improvement from late Thursday, when 4,367 people were in hospitals with COVID-19, 1,129 in the ICU and 675 on ventilators.

The state’s positivity rate — the number of positive tests out of the total returned — is 10.7%. In the hardest-hit region of the state, the Northeast region, the positivity rate is 17.9%. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has tied four regions and their positivity rates and hospital metrics into his controversial reopening plan. All regions of the state are on track — under a 20% positivity rate — to move to phase three of his plan after his extended stay-at-home order expires May 30.

That phase will allow for non-essential manufacturing, non-essential businesses, barbershops and salons and retail stores to open with safety guidance. Bars and restaurants would remain closed except for delivery, pickup and drive-thru.

Over the weekend, the Democratic governor saw more protests over his stay-at-home extension, both outside the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and also in Springfield. And he’s battling legal challenges as the Illinois General Assembly is set to return to Springfield Wednesday to try to finalize a budget and iron out other issues.

Some are upset over an emergency rule Pritzker filed Friday, in which business owners who disobey the governor’s stay-at-home order extension could be hit with a misdemeanor charge. Pritzker on Monday said that provision was already in the Illinois Dept. of Public Health Act and that he preferred that business owners are issued warnings before penalties can be invoked.

“After communication from law enforcement or even after a cease-and-desist letter, the state can revoke the business’ liquor license or impose a closure order by IDPA,” Pritzker said, citing an example of a bar or restaurant. “Both are expensive measures for a business to come back from and they’re not preferred by anyone, least of all me.”

Instead, he said, the emergency rule would charge the business with a class A misdemeanor. It would requires businesses to follow the existing stay-at-home order, which “causes less harm to a business than a total shutdown or loss of a license.”

Also Monday, Pritzker announced the state’s tracing program will emulate Massachusetts’ program by joining with Partners in Health, the organization that helped the state scale up its program. The governor said only about 29% of the state’s known cases have had tracing, while the industry standard is more than 60%.

A person who may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 will first get a text message. If they do not respond, they will be called three times by a tracer. As a last resort, a tracer would try to inform them in person, according to the state’s epidemiologist Dr. Wayne Duffus, who is leading the tracing program.

The state is beginning its pilot program in St. Clair and Lake counties. Assessments have been sent to the state’s 97 local health departments to understand their capabilities to trace. Pritzker wants those answers, and a plan, “in the coming weeks” and wants tracers to be hired locally, not through the state. Those interested in being contact tracers can find forms at dph.illinois.gov/COVID19.