State sees 72 more COVID-19 deaths, poised for Phase 4 as GOP sues for unlimited group size
State health officials reported 72 additional deaths from COVID-19 Tuesday as well as another 623 infections from the disease.
The uptick is common after weekends when autopsies don't occur and testing is reduced. Despite the small growth in both cases and deaths, the state remains on target to loosen restrictions in 10 days. Monday's toll was 19 deaths and 473 new cases.
The state's death toll is now 6,398, and the number of Illinois residents infected is 133,639 since the outbreak began.
With 3.3% of the 18,729 tests returned Tuesday positive for infection, the state is averaging 3% positive tests over the past week. That's down from the state's seven-day rolling average infection rate of 11.3% a month ago.
On June 26, Illinois is slated to move to a new phase of the state's reopening plan that will allow more businesses to reopen and loosen restrictions on ones that have already resumed operations.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Republican Party sued Pritzker Tuesday, arguing that Pritzker's executive order limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people infringes on the GOP's First Amendment rights to assemble freely.
The Illinois GOP's federal lawsuit seeks an immediate injunction against the governor's executive order so they can hold "rallies" and "town halls" of any size.
Under guidelines set to begin June 26, gatherings of 50 or fewer people will be permitted. Child-care facilities, health clubs and theaters will be able to reopen, with capacity limits. Bars and restaurants could begin offering indoor service with limits on table spacing and occupancy.
Chris Johnson, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Theatre Owners, hopes discussions he and other operators have had with state officials will result in limits higher than 50 for some large venues.
"We are confident that we will be able to open June 26 with acceptable protocols," Johnson said. "We've had three conversations and believe they are incorporating our feedback in those guidelines."
Johnson said that while movie theaters will have limited new releases to choose from when they reopen, moviegoers could expect to see "massive throwback" blockbusters.
"The conundrum is the release schedule," he said. "July 10 is the first time we'll get new movies."
Live theater would also be allowed in the new phase, but lack of rehearsals and sets makes an immediate restart of operations unlikely.
"We're all in kind of a wait-and-see mode," said Amy Lynn, executive director of the Illinois Theatre Association. "We don't know what to do at this point."
That's largely because none of the specific guidelines have been released by the state yet. Businesses ran into difficulties last month when the state issued eleventh hour guidelines for moving into Phase 3 of reopening.
The Illinois GOP, in its lawsuit, says guidelines on crowd size are applied inconsistently.
"Some groups are allowed to skirt the rules or get a carve-out, while everybody else is left out," said Liberty Justice Center attorney Daniel Suhr, who is representing the state party and several local GOP affiliates. "We shouldn't have to live in fear that if we hold an event the governor is going to make a game-day choice to send in the cops."
The lawsuit argues that since the governor allowed churches to hold services in excess of 50 people, political parties should be allowed to do so, too.
Republicans criticized Pritzker's recent appearance at large civil rights protests. Pritzker also allowed groups to stage large-scale protests against the state shutdown at the height of the outbreak without anyone being arrested.
"This is about scoring political points and criticizing civil rights protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement," said Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. "The courts have repeatedly upheld the governor's executive orders as based on public health guidance. And as the Republicans who attended protests against the public health guidance are well aware, the state has never prevented people from exercising their First Amendment rights."
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider of Bartlett said he believes these events can be held safely.
"If we follow the proper safety measures with (personal protective equipment) and social distancing, our people will be in no greater threat than going to places that are already open," he said.
Naperville lawyers John C. Kreamer and Joseph E. Urani also filed suit on behalf of 12 individuals claiming Pritzker lacks the authority to restrict individuals.