Stay-at-home order extended through May 30; face coverings required starting May 1
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is extending the state's stay-at-home order through May 30.
The governor said the move is necessary because a plateau of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations isn't expected until the middle of next month. Without the stay-at-home restrictions, death rates and hospitalizations would rise sharply beginning in a few weeks, he said, citing research from universities, public health agencies and consulting firms.
Starting May 1, everyone will be required to wear face coverings in public places as well.
Essential businesses are required to provide protective equipment to employees who are not able to maintain a 6-foot distance from co-workers or customers, under the new order.
Meanwhile, state health officials announced another 123 people had died from the coronavirus and an additional 1,826 are infected.
That brings the state's death toll from the disease to 1,688 and the number of infections statewide to 36,934.
As part of the stay-at-home extension, Pritzker is loosening the restrictions on businesses. Notably, animal grooming operations along with greenhouses, gardening centers and nurseries are being allowed to reopen. Retail stores are being allowed to operate delivery and pickup services as well.
He's also allowing state parks and golf courses to reopen "under strict safety guidelines provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity."
And Illinoisans forced to postpone surgeries and tests so hospitals could increase capacity for COVID-19 patients will be able to begin rescheduling some of them. Both Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike declined to specify which procedures are still under a moratorium.
Before health care centers can begin performing surgeries, their officials must meet the state health department's "exact specifications," Pritzker said. Hospitals must have enough personal protective gear and ensure bed capacity is sufficient to handle new COVID-19 patients. Potential procedure recipients must also be proven to not have the virus.
At his daily briefing Thursday, Pritzker introduced several researchers who were consulted and provided models to the governor to help guide his decision to extend the stay-at-home order.
Sergei Maslov, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that without the original stay-at-home order, the state would have seen "20 times" the number of deaths the state has recorded so far from the coronavirus.
"In short, our models show the prompt actions by the governor and all of the population in Illinois prevented a health care disaster," he said. "But it's not the time to let our guard down."
Because the number of cases the state is recording has yet to plateau, a second wave of cases could overwhelm the state's health care system if social distancing and other precautions aren't kept in place, he said. The plateau is expected in late April to mid-May, according to the state's most recent projections.
"If we discontinued effective strategies prematurely, there will be major setbacks that will cost us lives," said Dr. Oluwatoyin Adeyemi, a Rush University infectious disease professor. "We've come too far and achieved too much to undo our progress."
Republicans praised the governor for adjusting the restrictions but said he didn't go far enough.
"I am pleased this stay-at-home extension contains recommendations submitted by Senate Republicans that will ease some of the onerous restrictions on small businesses, essential health care procedures and state parks," said Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington. "However, downstate communities, while following the proper social distancing guidelines, are not seeing the same number of cases, but they're suffering just the same economically."
While the majority of cases and deaths have occurred in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, Pritzker scoffed at the idea of lifting the precautions for parts of the state that haven't been hit as hard by the virus.
"I'm not sure how to answer that," he said. "This virus knows no boundaries, folks. No one is immune from this, no matter where they live. We are trying to take into account the differences between population densities in one area of our state versus another."
More than 90% of the confirmed cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in residents in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. And 91% of the deaths were recorded in these counties as well.
However, only about 1% of the state's population has been tested and the disease has been found in patients in 96 of the state's 102 counties.
• Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.