May 5 COVID-19 Update: Pritzker talks Restore Illinois, getting the state back on its feet

By Jacob Lorenz, Staff Reporter

The largest number of fatalities in a 24 hour period is now 176 in Illinois, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said during the governor’s daily press conference. 

There were also 2,122 new cases of COVID-19 which brings the total to 65,962 cases and fatalities to 2,838, Ezike said.

Illinois has conducted 346,286 tests and 13,139 were done in the last 24 hours. There are currently 4,780 people in the hospital, Ezike said. 

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“The option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist,” Gov. JB Pritzker said. 

Restore Illinois is a public health plan to safely restore the parts of everyone’s lives that have been put on hold since COVID-19, Pritzker said. 

Pritzker said he has consulted with leaders around Illinois to help get back on the state’s feet in the safest way possible. 

“It’s also inspired by people across our state who carry real passion to make sure their communities can begin thriving again even in the face of this pandemic,” Pritzker said. 

Pritzker said Restore Illinois will look at the state in four regions: Northeast Illinois, Northcentral Illinois, Central Illinois and Southern Illinois. Each can move through different phases at different times. 

The regions are the same the IDPH uses for emergency medical service regions, Pritzker said. 

Illinois is already through phase one of Restore Illinois. The first phase was the first stay-at-home order in March and shutting down of non-essential businesses, Pritzker said.

Pritzker said all of Illinois is in phase two of Restore Illinois, as in the current stay-at-home order with limited reopening where recommended by public health experts. 

Pritzker said if regions can hit certain thresholds in the next few weeks, they will be able to move to phase three. 

With face masks as the norm, non-essential manufacturing and businesses that follow safety guidance can reopen, Prtizker said.

“Employers should do everything in their open to accommodate for elderly and COVID vulnerable employees,” Pritzker said. 

To reach phase four, a region will have to see a decrease in COVID-19 patients and maintain surge capacities. If so, then restaurants, bars and other public places can open up at new limited capacity with public health guidelines, Pritzker said. 

Schools can also reopen and public gatherings under 50 people can also be allowed to reopen as long as they follow public health guidelines, Pritzker said.

Pritzker said for a region to move to the next phase, it must be at or under a 20 percent test positivity rate and cases should increase no more than 10 percentage points over a 14 day period. 

A region must have not had an overall increase of or maintained overall sustainability in hospital admissions for COVID like illness in the last 28 days. 

A region must maintain the availability of a surge threshold of 14 percent availability of ICU beds, of medical and surgery beds and ventilators. 

Pritzker said that the only way the state can reach phase five, or back to normalcy, is still a vaccine or treatment or an elimination of new cases.

IDPH will be tracking each of the regions and they will display their tracking on their website, Pritzker said. 

Pritzker also said regions can move backwards in phases. If regions are overwhelmed in hospitals or have a rapid increase of new cases, the regions can be set back in phases. 

“We can and we will make our Restore Illinois plan smarter as we move forward,” Pritzker said. “I’m not afraid to redesign the playbook if the rules change.”

Staff reporter Jacob Lorenz can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @jtlorenz6. 

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