Testing in Illinois passes 20,000 a day, but can schools reopen this fall?

  • Gov. J.B. Pritzker

    Gov. J.B. Pritzker

 
 
Updated 5/8/2020 8:40 PM

Testing for COVID-19 surpassed the 20,000-a-day milestone, officials said, but some measures of Illinois' success fighting the deadly virus lag, raising the question of whether schools could reopen this fall -- a hope Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed Friday.

The number of COVID-19 cases grew by 2,887 Friday, with an additional 130 deaths, officials reported. That leaves a total of 3,241 deaths statewide and 73,760 cases.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Results from 20,071 tests in the last 24 hours showed 14% were positive, compared to about 17% announced Monday.

"Testing is fundamental to our ability to reopen the economy," Pritzker said. He noted Illinois is fifth out of 50 states in tests completed. "But we know it's not enough. It is fundamental to our economic future and keeping Illinoisans safe while COVID-19 is still out there."

Meanwhile, with students across Illinois ending the school year online, Pritzker said his hope is they can return to physical classes in the fall.

"We all want very badly for schools to open," he said. "You've got to do planning for reopening in the fall. None of us knows what the future exactly holds but I think we have a great desire for reopening schools when they usually would."

Friday marked the fourth day in a row with more than 100 deaths; the seven-day average is 113, with numbers veering from 46 Monday to 176 Tuesday.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 statewide dipped a bit to 4,750 as of Thursday compared to 4,862 Wednesday; the 14-day average is 4,770.

Pritzker also is working with business leaders to implement staggered work hours to prevent crowding on public transit when workplaces reopen, he said.

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"It's very important to have our mass transit clean and make sure it is COVID-19-free and we protect all the people riding on mass transit. Otherwise, we won't be able to reopen safely."

Returning to normal school operations requires meeting strict metrics Pritzker set out Tuesday in a plan to gradually reopen Illinois on a regional basis.

The state is divided into four sectors that will be judged individually on whether they can graduate through five phases to normalcy. The Northeast region contains Chicago, Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties.

The Northeast region is in Phase 2, or "flattening." Phase 3, or "recovery," would reopen more businesses to the public with restrictions and allow gatherings of 10 or fewer people. And Phase 4, or "revitalization," would ease several restrictions and allow schools to reopen with safety conditions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

To reach Phase 3, regions must have an infection rate of 20% or lower over two weeks, hospital admissions for COVID-19 illnesses must stay level or decrease for 28 days, and at least 14% of ICU, medical and surgery beds must be available.

Phase 4 would also seek expanded testing for everyone and extensive contact tracing.

As of Thursday, the infection rate in the Northeast region was 21.8%; hospital admissions for COVID-19 as of Tuesday were 279, down from 291 Monday.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike was asked about Kawasaki disease, which causes fever and inflammation and has been observed in children at hospitals in New York. It has been linked with COVID-19.

Ezike said the IDPH will begin requiring reporting of patients suspected of having Kawasaki disease.

"This is a new phenomenon that has been recognized and associated with COVID-19," she said.

Pritzker confirmed he is talking to Major League Baseball executives about games being played in Chicago, albeit without the general public in the stands.

"They all have suggested they are putting a plan together or have a plan and will submit it to have it reviewed by our medical experts," he said. "I want to see sports played. ... I think it's good for everybody. I think they can do it here in Illinois."

• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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