Pritzker: Virus peak now mid-June, but he still eyes end of May for next reopening phase
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said new modeling data shows the state's COVID-19 cases won't peak until mid-June, a month later than expected.
"In many ways, this news is disheartening," Pritzker said. "Pushing the peak down, and to a longer time frame, might not sound like good news to some, but I promise you, it is saving lives."
The new modeling results came after researchers added 2½ weeks of data, he said.
But the governor also offered some good news. After announcing his reopening plan last week that divides the state into four regions and evaluates phases of reopenings based on health metrics, Pritzker said Monday all regions except for the Northeast region "are on pace" to be able to move to the next phase by May 29, the last day of the stay-at-home executive order.
In the Northeast region, home to Chicago and the collar counties, the rate of positive cases compared to tests taken remains too high; it was 22.3% as of Friday. Still, the governor signaled there's still time to get that number lower. His plan in part entails 14 days of a positivity rate under 20%.
Meanwhile, state health officials announced another 54 residents have died from COVID-19, while an additional 1,266 are infected. That brings the state's death toll to 3,459, with 79,007 infected since the outbreak began.
The infection rate from the new batch of 12,441 tests is 10.2%, which is notably lower than Sunday's 12.1% rate.
The state has averaged a new-case infection rate of 13.9% during the past week. The week prior, the average infection rate was 17%.
The new figures were announced during Pritzker's first media briefing since Friday.
It was also the first briefing the governor has done since he and several top aides went into self-isolation after coming into contact with another key staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 last weekend.
That staff member is reportedly asymptomatic.
Pritzker and the others have tested negative for the virus, according to state officials.
In his remarks regarding cases peaking in mid-June, Pritzker specifically pointed to hospitalizations as a metric that's not improving quickly enough.
However, the COVID-19 caseload has dropped by almost 9% between Friday and Sunday, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures. Data released Monday showed there were 420 fewer coronavirus hospitalizations statewide on Sunday than on Friday.
Health officials said despite the recent decline, hospitalization figures overall have not been stable since the outbreak began.
The state also received a shipment of 140 cases of remdesivir, a drug that has shown an ability to speed recovery from the infection in severely symptomatic cases.
The state has more than 200 hospitals though, and some will receive no allocations of the drug, including hospitals in Waukegan, Elgin and Joliet, which have seen high numbers of cases.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the IDPH, said the allocations had to be spread "fairly" across the state.
"We do expect to receive more in the future, though," she said.
Calls to reopen the state continue. Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican, and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to Pritzker urging him to reduce hospitalization standards from 28 days of stable or decreasing admissions to 14 days and create 11 regions of the state, rather than the four he announced last week.
"As other states have laid out less restrictive paths toward reopening, like New York that is partly opening this week, we believe Illinois needs to follow suit," the legislators wrote in their letter to the governor.
Pritzker said he has no immediate plans to change the format of the phased-in reopening of the state but would continue to listen to suggestions.
• The Chicago Sun-Times and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.