39 more die in Illinois of COVID-19 as all regions of state set to move to Phase 3 on Friday

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces guidance Tuesday for the reopening of child care facilities, retail stores, offices and other industries.

SHARE 39 more die in Illinois of COVID-19 as all regions of state set to move to Phase 3 on Friday
A man and woman in the Loop wear face masks Thursday amid growing fear about the coronavirus.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Another 39 people have died of COVID-19 in Illinois — as the four regions in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan are set to see some restrictions loosened come Friday.

Officials, however, said the 39 deaths reported Tuesday could be lower due to a lack of reporting on Memorial Day. And employees at the state’s laboratories were given a rare day off, the first one since the pandemic began.

There were also 1,178 new cases reported from 17,230 tests received. The virus remains in 100 of 102 Illinois counties. In total, 4,923 people have died of the coronavirus in Illinois. With the new cases reported on Tuesday, there have been 113,195 positive cases and nearly 787,000 total tests performed.

Tuesday marked the fourth consecutive day with fewer than 100 deaths reported. But more than half of the total COVID-19 deaths have been in May.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the state lost 780 people for the week ending on May 16, marking the first week the state has seen fewer deaths than the previous week.

“I am hopeful that this fact is the beginning of a downward trend,” Ezike said. “But of course that also depends on all of us and making sure that we’re doing all that we can to decrease the transmission of this virus.”

Pritzker on Tuesday also shared good news: all four regions in his reopening plan are set to see further restrictions lifted come Friday. The metrics needed to move to the next phase of his five-part plan include a positivity rate under 20% and stable or declining hospital metrics.

“All regions continue on track to move into Phase 3 by the end of this week,” Pritzker said, while warning it’s still important to limit social circles and wear a face covering as the state transitions to the next phase.

The Democratic governor was asked about large groups gathering over the holiday weekend.

“People who choose not to [be safe] either haven’t been reading the newspaper, aren’t following the rules or don’t seem to understand how dangerous this pandemic is,” Pritzker said. “The pandemic is still here. Just because the numbers are moving in the right direction in the state of Illinois, that does not mean that the virus has gone away. It’s still here.”

Ezike was asked whether Illinoisans can expand their social circles in the next phase. She warned that the more people you interact with, the higher the risk of contracting coronavirus.

“As you expand your circles, obviously there’s the additional risk of transmission because again we don’t necessarily know who is harboring the virus and who isn’t,” Ezike said. “So hopefully if people are all being as careful as you are and they have used their mask and social distance to the extent possible, hopefully their risk is low. But again, the more you increase your circle, the larger that circle is absolutely the more risk,” Ezike says.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday said she’ll take her time in lifting restrictions in Chicago, which remains a virus hot spot, based partly on what she has seen in other cities.

“We are not going to let this happen in Chicago. We are not going to undo all the hard work and sacrifice,” the mayor said.

Lightfoot on Tuesday announced guidance for the reopening of child care facilities, retail stores, offices and other industries.

The city has not yet set a date for when it will enter Phase 3 of its reopening, though Lightfoot said she expects that to happen in early June.

The newly issued guidance calls for students to undergo health screenings before entering a classroom. Outside of class, children would be required to wear facial coverings, while parents and school employees would need coverings at all times.

In office settings, high-traffic common areas would be closed to discourage employee gatherings, and workspaces would be reconfigured in an effort to maintain six feet between workers.

While the city’s playgrounds will remain closed in Phase 3, non-contact sports among “small groups” are allowed, though facial coverings will still be required.

The new guidance, however, did not touch on policies that would be required of sporting venues, houses of worship, bars or Chicago’s lakefront parks, beaches and trail.

While legislators left Springfield on Sunday having passed a budget to get the state through this year, and the next, the governor has not yet been sent the measures to sign, the governor’s offices said. Besides the budget, lawmakers cleared several COVID-19 relief measures, including one that would make it a felony charge should someone assault a retail or essential worker over safety guidance.

Pritzker released guidelines Sunday for retailers, manufacturers, barbershops, salons, health and fitness centers, and other businesses that will be allowed to reopen in coming days as the state enters the next phase of its “Restore Illinois” plan.

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