ILLINOIS — Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled new projections showing how bad the coronavirus death toll could have gotten in Illinois without the statewide stay-at-home order, and he announced Thursday that next week he will extend that order.
The new order takes effect May 1 and will last through May 30. The modified order will include changes, including allowing some elective surgeries and procedures to resume. Outdoor activities, such as boating and fishing, could resume as long as social distancing is maintained.
Nonessential retail businesses will be able to reopen for phone and online orders through pickup outside the store and delivery.
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Also starting May 1, everyone is required to wear a face covering in public if they cannot stay at least 6 feet away from others.
“If we start to see crowds and we see people breaking the order,” Pritzker said, he will be forced to put restrictions back in place.
Some changes to the order:
“I know how badly we all want our normal lives back. Believe me, if I could make that happen right now, I would. This is the part where we need to dig in,” Pritzker said, adding that the numbers show Illinois’ “sacrifices are working.”
“We need to keep going a little while longer to finish the job,” he said.
Pritzker said the stay-at-home order has kept death rates for March and April thousands below what they would have been otherwise. The restrictions have kept hospitals from being overwhelmed and saved health care workers from making “dark choices” such as those seen in places like Italy, where doctors were forced to choose who got a ventilator and who didn’t.
“If we let up now, we would have nowhere near the kind of hospital capacity that we need,” he said. If Illinois lifted the order today, Pritzker said, “The projections are clear. We would see our deaths per day shoot into the thousands by the end of May, and that would last well into the summer. Our hospitals would be full, and very sick people would have nowhere to go.”
The stay-at-home order had been scheduled to expire in just a week, on April 30. Federal guidance calls for 14 days of declining coronavirus cases before starting the first phase of reopening.
Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she expected the stay-at-home order to be extended until June.
As of Thursday, a total of 1,688 Illinois residents have died from coronavirus, and twice in recent weeks the death toll has reached 125 deaths per day. On Thursday, another 123 deaths were announced.
Illinois could have had 10 to 20 times more deaths
As bad as it is, it could have been much worse without the stay-at-home order that took effect March 21, according to modeling created by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Northwestern School of Medicine, the University of Chicago, the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health, along with McKinsey and Mier Consulting Group working on behalf of the city of Chicago and Cook County.
Illinois schools are also closed for in-person instruction, moving classes online through the end of the academic year. Bars and restaurants have been closed to in-person dining since March 16.
Pritzker released projections Thursday afternoon showing that the death toll could have been 10 to 20 times what it is without the order, according to the modeling.
The projections being released Thursday show the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Illinois could start now through the first week of May, with daily death tolls fluctuating between 50 and 150.
Earlier this week, Pritzker told The Washington Post he expected the Illinois coronavirus outbreak to peak in mid-May.
As of Thursday morning, Illinois was reporting 36,934 coronavirus cases. More than 4,600 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus. No data was available on the number of people who have recovered in Illinois. Nationwide, more than 77,064 have recovered, and 723,377 have recovered globally.
Here is how Illinois’ coronavirus deaths per day could have played out without the stay-at-home order, according to the modeling.
Here’s how hospital resources would have been depleted without the stay-at-home order and if the order was lifted right now:
If the order were lifted immediately or had not been issued at all, the projections show as much as half of the state’s population could be infected with COVID-19 at once, which would overwhelm the health care system and result in more deaths.
“As a further caution against relaxing mitigations without carefully considering the consequences, the model estimates that the number of infectious people is likely similar in size to when the order began,” Pritzker’s office said. “Even as hospitalizations and deaths are starting to decrease, there are still enough active cases to lead to a second wave. Fortunately, the stay-at-home order has prevented most of the population from becoming sick, but that also means that most of the population remains vulnerable to the virus.”
Models from UIUC and UChicago project a peak or plateau of daily deaths between late April and early May. The study indicates that after the peak, it will take longer for deaths to decline to pre-epidemic levels than it took for them to rise, underscoring the importance of staying the course over the coming weeks and months.