As Gov. J.B. Pritzker says COVID-19 won’t peak in Illinois until mid-May, Mayor Lori Lightfoot predicts statewide stay-at-home order could extend into June
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
by JAMIE MUNKS, ANTONIA AYRES-BROWN
Gov. J.B. Pritzker is now saying the new coronavirus pandemic may not peak in Illinois until mid-May, while Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday predicted the state’s stay-at-home order could extend into June.
Previous projections had put the virus’s peak in mid- to late April. But Pritzker told national news outlets this week that the date has been pushed back in part because people have been adhering to his stay-at-home order.
The restrictions, according to the administration, prevented a steeper spike in cases, while at the same time pushing back the time it will take for the curve to start a downward trajectory.
“So it’s been pushed out now, according to the models, to maybe mid-May, but at a lower level,” Pritzker said during an online interview Tuesday with The Washington Post.
Later, during his daily briefing in Chicago, Pritzker declined to identify the models used to come up with the mid-May projection of a COVID-19 peak.
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People enjoy Millennium Park near Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, on April 21, 2019. Below, the same scene is shown on April 21, 2020, void of people because of the COVID-19 pandemic.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Pritzker said “you have to actually get to the peak and start down the other side of it before you know you’ve hit a peak.”
“We’ll be talking more about our models in the coming couple of days, but suffice to say that we’re working hard to try to make changes to the stay-at-home order,” he said.
Pritzker again made clear that the stay-at-home restrictions are not likely to be lifted in their entirety on April 30.
“We will be making some changes to the stay-at-home order as it is, but it is true that it is working,” Pritzker said. “So to pull it off, the stay-at-home order ... to remove it entirely, is to simply open everything back up to infection.”
Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Here's the latest on COVID-19 »
The numbers released Tuesday showed no ebb in the virus’s hold on the state. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reported an additional 1,551 known cases of COVID-19 and 119 more deaths. The statewide totals stand at 33,059 known cases, affecting 96 of 102 counties, and 1,468 deaths.
Lightfoot offered her thoughts on the stay-at-home order during a teleconference with reporters, when she was asked whether a June 30 deadline for an ordinance giving her extended powers signals anything about when the city expects restrictions to be lifted.
The mayor said the date is simply when the city might have a better view of the future. But she said that the April 30 end to the stay-at-home order is no longer viable, reiterating her previous prediction that the order would go into May, then adding it could go into June.
The June timeline meshes with guidance the White House released last week for states to consider when working to reopen their economies. The guidance recommends states experience a 14-day period of a downward trajectory before moving to the second phase, when social distancing will still be encouraged with gatherings limited to 50 people, and travel is allowed to resume.
Lightfoot said the city will be guided by data, science and the Chicago Department of Public Health “to let us know when we have a comfort level of coming out of this period of the COVID process.”
A dog is walked across empty Chicago Avenue in the River North neighborhood on April 21, 2020.(Armando L. Sanchez / Chicago Tribune)
“But we’ve been very clear that we have to see a lot of things in place before we’re going to have a comfort level that we can come back into congregate settings. Obviously, the cases not only have to slow, as they have, they have to decrease dramatically, and we haven’t seen that yet and we’re not near there,” Lightfoot said.
In his Washington Post interview, Pritzker again said he is looking at regional differences across Illinois’ 102 counties as he weighs adjustments to the state’s stay-at-home order.
“We put in stay-at-home orders that were really across-the-board very effective, and now we’ve looked at what the infection rate has been — different in Cook County than it is in our collar counties, and different in our Cook and collar counties than it is in other counties across the state,” Pritzker said. “And now I think we can make some adjustments based upon hospitalization rates, based upon ICU bed availability, based upon infection rates.”
Also Tuesday, Pritzker announced relief options for those with privately held student loans or commercially owned federal Family Education Program loans who weren’t helped by the initial federal relief package.
More than 138,000 residents could be eligible for options that include the waiver of late payment fees, borrower-assistance programs and a 90-day hold on debt collection lawsuits. Eligible borrowers can contact their loan providers for relief, Pritzker said.
Also, Illinois was granted its request for additional benefits for households in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and have school-age children. An additional $112 million in food assistance will benefit more than 300,000 families, Pritzker said. The increased benefits will automatically be added to the Link cards of families who are already in SNAP, he said.
Pritzker, who repeatedly has been critical of President Donald Trump and his administration’s response to the new coronavirus, was asked by the Post about Trump’s tweets that have seemed to support protests against stay-at-home orders.
Pritzker said Trump is making “a political maneuver in the middle of a national emergency, and he should stop it.”
Pritzker said in Illinois, Democrats and Republicans “share the common goal of opening our economy and getting people back to school and back to normal as fast as we can, but with the overriding concern for people, safety and health.”
“That doesn’t seem to be the message coming out of the president when he tweets out ‘Liberate Michigan’ or ‘Liberate Minnesota’ or ‘Liberate Virginia.’ He’s fomenting protest, and I hate to say, that is fomenting some violence, and I’m very concerned about what that might mean for the country if he keeps doing things like that. We should be bringing people together, not dividing people now.”
There have been a wave of protests of state stay-at-home orders over the past week outside statehouses, including one in Springfield on Sunday when about 50 people gathered around the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of the statehouse chanting “Open Illinois” and "Recall Pritzker.
Trump on Monday took aim at Pritzker over COVID-19 testing, saying the governor “did not understand" the state’s capacity for testing.
Pritzker on Tuesday said Trump “doesn’t seem to understand the difference between testing capacity and getting testing results,” noting a “worldwide shortage” of some of the materials needed to run the tests.
“Testing capacity, what he’s referring to is — hey, you’ve got enough machines in each of your states to run tests that will give you hundreds of thousands of results. Well, he may be right. And he is right in Illinois. But what he’s not right about is we don’t have the supplies to run those tests," Pritzker said.
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While multiple states have reported incidents of the federal government seizing shipments of PPE, Pritzker said Illinois’ efforts to obtain PPE abroad have not been interrupted. The state chartered two private flights that have already returned from China with protective gear, which is now held in the state stockpile, Pritzker said.
The state inspects imported equipment in its warehouses before distributing it to front-line workers, the governor said.
“You can’t go through every single mask, but you take samples from each of the, you know, shipments that have come over — to make sure that we got what we paid for, and also that it’s effective and can be used where we need it,” Pritzker said.