Model Shows Coronavirus In Illinois Peaking In Mid-June: Pritzker

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his first daily coronavirus briefing from his Chicago home Monday after announcing a staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The governor released updated statewide forecasting models that incorporate daily death totals and hospital capacity data. While the previous model showed a peak in coronavirus cases between late April and early May, the updated modeling shows infections peaking in mid-June.

“In many ways, this news is disheartening. We have made great progress, but it’s forced us to remain at a moderated, though still high, level of key metrics for this extended period. A pushing out of our estimated peak is a natural consequence of ‘flattening the curve,'” Pritzker said.

“Remember that no one can truly stop this virus without a vaccine, but what we’ve been aiming to do since early March is slow down the exponential rate of transmission. When we do that, it leads to a slower rate of infections over a longer period of time, giving our health care system the ability to treat those who have complications and giving our pharmaceutical researchers time to develop effective treatments and potentially a vaccine,” the governor said.

“Pushing the peak down and therefore to a longer time frame might not sound like good news to come, but I promise you, it is saving lives.”

Pritzker warned that relaxing the restrictions would lead to a new surge in infections. During his stay-at-home order, the rate of new cases has been reduced to the point where each person who contracts COVID-19 infects only one other person — an R0, or R nought, of 1.

“If we were to lift all of our mitigation entirely at the end of the month, modeling shows that there would be a new surge of COVID-19, and a higher R nought, in each of the four regions, even in the least hard-hit regions of our state,” he said. “Lifting all of our mitigation at the end of May would likely lead to a second wave of outbreak in each and every one of our four regions.”

On Monday, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,266 new coronavirus cases were detected over the past 24 hours, including 54 additional deaths. In the past day, 12,411 tests were processed statewide. According to IDPH, it marks the fewest tests completed in the state since April 25.

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Pritzker was asked why his administration has not released a strategy to increase testing that hospital CEOs have reportedly called for, and which led the city of Chicago to launch its own testing program.

“Actually, we have a testing strategy, and we’ve been working with hospitals across the state on that testing strategy,” Pritzker said. “Much of it is focused on making sure that we’re using the available equipment at hospitals and that we’re focusing the collection of specimens in the places where we’re going to be testing those who are most vulnerable, as well as doing our surveillance testing across the state. So we have been following a testing strategy, and we’ll continue to do that.”

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(Gov. Pritzker’s Office)

Pritzker said three of the state’s four regions on pace to move on to the next stage of his Restore Illinois five-stage reopening plan as soon as May 29. Northeast Illinois, which includes the Chicago region, has a rate of positive tests of 22.3 percent, higher than the 20 percent threshold required under the governor’s plan.

All regions have seen a sharp drop in the number of people hospitalized since the start of the month, according to the governor. Hospitalizations are down 18.6 percent in the Northeast region, 35.8 percent in the North-Central region, 44.4 percent in the Central region and 54.3 percent decrease in the Southern region.

“The goal here is to reopen the state as fast as possible, but in a safe fashion that saves as many lives as possible,” Pritzker said.