COVID-19 cases surge by 4,014 Tuesday; Pritzker says no to changing regional recovery plan
The number of COVID-19 cases spiked by 4,014 Tuesday, a record, while Illinoisans perishing from the respiratory disease grew by 144, the second highest tally reported.
That brings the state's fatalities to 3,601 and total cases to 83,021 but Gov. J.B. Pritzker was still optimistic stay-at-home restrictions could ease for much of Illinois at the end of May -- with one big question mark.
The COVID-19 infection rate in northeast Illinois -- Chicago plus Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties -- sits at 21.4% as of Saturday, which doesn't meet standards required for reopening more of its economy.
The metro region is "getting very close," Pritzker said.
He also said he had spoken with state legislative leaders and hopes the General Assembly will reconvene in May "to get the very necessary things done like our budget."
The surge in cases Tuesday is related to a record 29,266 tests completed in the last 24 hours.
"We have not had (cases) in the 4,000 range before, but we also have never had tests in the 29,000 range before," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.
"As you test more, you're going to get more positives."
The 144 additional deaths is higher than the seven-day average of 110. The largest increase in fatalities was 176 on May 5; the state hit 144 previously April 28.
Pritzker's five-phase plan to gradually reopen workplaces, businesses and public gatherings using four separate regions is causing some city-versus-suburbs friction, with several leaders in DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties chafing about being lumped in with Chicago.
The entire state 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.
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.
Outside the Chicago area in the three other regions, people are testing positive for COVID-19 at rates between 6 and 9%.
The Northeast Region's infection rate is far higher, but it's dipping -- 21.4% as of Saturday compared to the seven-day average of 22%. All categories of hospital beds reach availability targets.
Pritzker noted Chicago and surrounding counties in the Northeast Region are "very close" to reaching targets that will allow it to move into Phase 3.
Statewide, tests show an 18% positivity rate based on a seven-day average, Ezike said.
Meanwhile, hospital admissions for the virus as of midnight Monday were 4,626 across Illinois, which is lower than the 14-day average of 4,718.
Pritzker rejected suggestions by some suburban leaders they should be exempted from the Northeast Region, saying it's unfeasible to reopen on a "city by city" or "county by county" basis.
"The regions are drawn in a way to take into account hospital availability and follow the metrics for each region," he said.
Pritzker also announced $25 million in grants to help local governments, including school districts, pay for construction projects this summer that are "shovel ready."
Priority will be given to underserved areas, he said. To learn more, go to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's website at illinois.gov/dceo.